Teachers lead book clubs

By Hank Gerba and Victor Yoon

 

“Got to pay the bills,” English teacher Lisa Rado said, referring to her decision four years ago to start moonlighting as the moderator of a book club,

Rado’s book club meets once a month and is made up of professional women from around the Los Angeles area.

“They’re ages 45 to 55 and most of them are mothers, so they have different life experiences than a student would have. It’s really fun to see how someone comes to a book at that age,” said Rado.

For each book club meeting, Rado prepares a three hour seminar, along with questions and background information on the book and author. Because the club reads a new book every month, she only has three hours to spend on a book, as opposed to the three or four weeks she would be able to spend on a book if she were teaching her English class. However, Rado enjoys the challenge that this method of teaching brings.

Additionally, being part of a book club brings other benefits.

“I have a 94-year-old friend. She can barely walk and she still has a book group. I think book groups keep you excited, young and engaged,” Rado said.

Rado’s favorite experience with the book club was when the group came together to discuss David Grossman’s “To the End of the Land.”

“Everyone came in and said that they loved the book and couldn’t put it down,” Rado said.

“I’ve been in charge of two book clubs over the years,” performing arts teacher Ted Walch said. “The first was a group of 60-year-old women who called themselves the Belvedere Babes. God, I love those women.”

The members were mothers at the Branson School where Walch taught.

“The environment of the club brought some of those women back to what they were in high school: there were those who flat out admitted that they hadn’t read the book, and then there were those who clearly hadn’t read it but tried to pull off,” Walch said.

Though the club doesn’t meet anymore, Walch travels to San Francisco annually for a reunion.

When former English teacher Stephen Bellon decided to retire from his book club, he asked Walch to fill in as moderator. The club had been meeting monthly for close to 20 years and was organized as a couples club.

“That group was sharp, they loved literature and were very serious about the club. You really had to prepare yourself to seem competent. There was one meeting I couldn’t attend and the group actually asked me to seal my final word in an envelope so they could read it at the end of the discussion,” Walch said.

The club read fiction only, but ranged from light reading to books which required heavy analysis. Walch’s favorite book that the club read was “The Duel” by Anton Chekhov.

“You would’ve thought that I passed out gold bricks after they read that one,” Walch said.