Adult reading groups hatch ideas, friendships | Local


When Jules Kittelson talks about the Chapter Chat book group at the Rapid City Public Library, she describes it as “a group that comes together to talk about a shared love.”

She elaborated before a recent group meeting.

“Although we prefer different genres, we all love to read,” said Kittelson, library associate for the Rapid City Public Library and one of the leaders of Chapter Chat. “We all share this experience… It’s great to put your problems aside for a while, open a book and have a window into someone else’s world.

The group typically meets from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on the last Thursday of each month at the Rapid City Public Library.

“We have a mix of fiction and non-fiction,” she said. “We’re trying to do different genres … released over the last five years.”

Kittelson explained that one goal was to choose books that might be new to certain readers.

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Chapter Chat is part of a group of reading groups in libraries across the region, two of which are connected to the Sturgis Public Library: Books on Tap and Armchair Travelers.

The next book to be discussed in Chapter Chat is “Winter Counts” by David Heska Wanbli Weiden, a registered citizen of the Sicangu Lakota Nation. It is scheduled for discussion at 6 p.m. on January 27.

“It’s kind of a local accent, which is great,” Kittelson said.

Kittelson said attendees might recognize common experiences, or experiences of family members, in the reading. These recognitions actually took place at a recent Chapter Chat reunion, as Tara Westover’s 2018 memoir “Educated” was being discussed.

Westover’s book depicts her upbringing in a survival family before she entered college and then college. At least one of the participants recalled meeting someone who had experienced similar events, and the discussion flowed thoughtfully between the text and the reader’s own lives.

Kittelson said Chapter Chat’s structure is “fairly relaxed” without much structured discussion. On the night “Educated” was discussed, Kittelson began with some thoughts on the book, but then participants eagerly resumed the discussion.

“You don’t have to like the book, and you don’t have to finish the book,” Kittelson said. “Some people will read a few chapters and say ‘This is not my cup of tea’, and we’re so glad to have them too, to hear their views. Sometimes it’s even more interesting to hear people explain why they don’t like a book.

Kittelson said people tend to read in different formats, including audiobooks and e-books, as well as hard copies. She said library staff order copies in various formats ahead of the session.

“I like having everyone’s point of view,” Kittelson said. “I also like receiving their book recommendations. Some of them will read genres that I don’t necessarily favor and say, “It was spectacular. Then I am going to try it and I love it and I found a new author or a new genre which is really awesome.

After the discussion of Westover’s book, some participants lingered in the library and talked about the reading group. Denise Oen came to the sessions four times.

“COVID hit, and the ability to sit down and talk about important and interesting things was not the same, so I felt like it,” Oen said.

She said she first arrived four months ago and noticed that attendance was increasing every month.

Carol Merwin, also speaking after the “Educated” session, said she was attending for the first time. She had read “Educated” and was curious to hear the thoughts of others. She also liked the way the discussion was structured – including the way the chairs were arranged in a circle on the library floor.

“I think the circles are really important,” Merwin said, noting how much people’s body language and facial expressions can change as people move from behind their desks. This is something she noticed, she explained, when she was teaching in California.

Those looking for more information on Chapter Chat can call the Rapid City Public Library at 605-394-6139.

Another reading group that meets in the area is called “Books on Tap” at the Sturgis Public Library. Sierra Frazier-Riggs, Adult and Youth Services Librarian, leads the group, which is thematic. Thus, readers come to the meetings having read for themselves books which relate, even indirectly, to a theme chosen each month.

The format, as Frazier-Riggs explained, gives readers a chance to talk about their favorite books in potentially new contexts.

“We all have something to say about the different types of books that we love,” she said.

Frazier-Riggs said such gatherings can be helpful for adults, especially if they sometimes find themselves shy or reluctant to meet others. She described herself as introverted.

“When I go to Books on Tap I get nervous,” she said. “But as soon as I start talking, I come out of my shell. I feel like my energy helps boost everyone’s energy. I think this type of framework helps adults in general.

Books on Tap typically meets at 6 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of every month – at the same time as the Rapid City Public Library group. Meeting places vary.

“Our newsletter always has the theme, date and place,” said Frazier-Riggs. It’s available online through the library’s blog page and the city’s website, and it’s also available in print.

Those seeking more information can call the Sturgis Public Library at 605-347-2624.

The Wheelchair Travelers reading group meets at the Sturgis Public Library at noon on the first Thursday of every month, except August.

“Armchair Travelers is an open book club,” Dorothy Pulscher, club coordinator, said in an email. “Any interested reader can submit a report either in person at the regular monthly group meeting or by email to me. “

Reports describe books that readers have read on selected topics.

Pulscher, a board member of the Sturgis Region Arts Council, said the report was being passed on to the rest of the group. She noted that subjects or authors are selected for each month, and she said that Francie Ruebel-Alberts, another board member of the Sturgis Area Arts Council, “researches and compiles lists of possible selections for the group”.

Pulscher added, “We chose this format because we wanted anyone interested to be able to afford to participate and not have to buy books. To register, just indicate an interest and submit an address. E-mail.”

Those interested can contact Pulscher at [email protected]

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