When we discuss the book I understand better

Rachel, a migrant who attends a BDS-resourced book group for speakers of other languages, succinctly sums up a key aspect of any book-club experience.

"When I read a book I think I understand the story; when we discuss the book I understand better," she says.

Rachel is a member of Tauranga 046, which meets at the library in the seaside suburb of Papamoa. The book group was formed in mid-2015 when seven students of language agency English Language Partners (ELP) told their tutor Pam Hansen that they'd like to continue meeting together even though their class had finished.

The students had completed a 250-hour Intensive Literacy and Numeracy course designed to improve their everyday English. 

Pam's co-tutor, Sue, agreed to be involved with the book group and to help out. Another friend Mary also got involved.

"I like the camaraderie of the group and meeting up with old friends," says Sue.

TAUR 046's initial meeting was at former ELP student Joy's house, where everyone agreed to trial a half-year of book group meetings. 

"It was so successful that we have continued ever since, with five of the seven original members still participating." says Pam.

More than three years later, the group now has ten members including Pam, Sue and Mary. The fact that the group is all-women is just coincidence.

The women range in age from 30-something to 70 years and come from China (5 members), Korea (1) and Mexico (1). Previous members have been from Japan, Taiwan, Brazil, and Egypt, as well as China and Korea. Three members have Kiwi partners and some have young families. They meet monthly on a Friday morning. 

"The members' backgrounds vary but most of our group have been keen readers all their lives and all enjoy the discipline of having a new book each month," says Pam, who has a background in primary teaching, adult literacy and helping children with learning difficulties.

Original book-group member Joy finds motivation and inspiration from meeting regularly as a group.

"Discussion helps you to open your mind to other things you didn't see, makes you think about the questions more deeply," she says. "If I didn't join the group I wouldn't read so much. I like having to read a new book each month with the group, it helps me learn more." 

Jessica says being part of the group forces her to read. For her, the best outcome is that she is "finally reading books in English."  Rachel admits she, too, might be a bit lazy in her reading habits without the impetus of the group.

Lina says the books help her learn more about the culture and history of New Zealand and elsewhere.

Convenor Pam finds it very satisfying to help the migrants feel comfortable and confident in their new environment. She enjoys seeing the progress they make in their English skills and confidence.

"Even if everyone doesn't actually finish the book, they enjoy the discussion and social aspect of the group," she says. "They appreciate the opportunity to practise speaking and listening in English, as we share our views and experiences. Overall we keep it relaxed and fun, the discussion questions can be a good conversation starter but we always catch up on each other's lives as well."

Sounds like many other book groups we could mention, doesn't it?



November 2018 at the Papamoa Library: (back row) Juan, Kay, Rachel; (front row) Pam (Convenor), Mary (helper), Linda, Sue (helper) and Joy.  "Reading in English helps me learn new words," says Joy.


Xmas Lunch 2018: Lina, Pam (convenor), Joy and Rachel. "This group is a good chance to practise listening and speaking," says Rachel.


Jessica, Kay, Mary (helper), Linda (standing), Joy and Lina. “If not reading then I don’t know the culture and history," says Lina. 


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