A Bellarine book group with a difference

April 29, 2021 BY

Members of the Portarlington Neighbourhood House Reading Discussion Group, from left, Hayden Whisken, Brenda Hunter, Ros Gregg, Liz Martino, James Edmonstone, Facilitator Anne Whisken. (Not in photo: Stephanie O’Leary)

BOOK discussion groups were trialled during the pandemic to help overcome loneliness, and after proving successful, will continue on the Bellarine. When the lockdown prevented people meeting in groups and getting multiple copies of titles to discuss, retired teacher librarian Dr Anne Whisken approached Portarlington Neighbourhood House to host a fortnightly Zoom reading discussion group with a difference. “The idea was to focus on a different topic each session, with participants sharing their reflections about books fitting that topic and their impacts,” Dr Whisken said. “I wanted people to feel that they didn’t have to be ‘expert’ book readers to be able to talk about the role of reading and books in their lives.” Dr Whisken trialled the idea with a Geelong book group via Zoom before starting the Portarlington group. “It proved to be very successful, with the Zoom platform giving people an opportunity to overcome the loneliness of lockdown,” she said. “The topic focus enabled participants to reflect about books that have been important to them over time and why. “They brought their life experiences into the discussion, enabling a rich sharing of backgrounds and viewpoints.” Dr Whisken said books which brought greatest insight included Cry the Beloved Country, Buckley’s Chance, No Friend But the Mountain, Rebecca, The Map That Changed the World, Flatland, Zorba the Greek, 1984, Until the End of Time and The Women’s Room.
She said important books in childhood or as teenagers included The Magic Faraway Tree, Secret Seven and Famous Five series, The Wind in the Willows, Biggles, A Little Bush Maid, The Secret Garden, Across the Nightingale Floor, I Heard the Owl Call My Name, and To Kill a Mockingbird. The Reading Discussion Group has continued in person this year at Portarlington Neighbourhood House. The group continues in Term Two, with the first meeting today, Thursday April 29 at 1.30pm. To book your spot, contact Portarlington Neighbourhood House 52592299.

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