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Reading Group Guide

How to access free resources for your reading group from Vale Libraries


Follow our useful guide below to set up and run your reading group in partnership with Vale Libraries.

Reading group

Anybody can set up a reading group

  • A group of friends or neighbours
  • Regulars at a bar or coffee shop
  • Young mums while the kids are at playgroup
  • Residents of a sheltered housing complex
  • Allotment owners


A reading group is best with between 6 and 10 members

But how do you go about attracting members?

  • You could post an appeal in a shop window
  • Write a letter to your local newspaper
  • How about something in the Church or community newsletter?
  • We’ll even put up a notice for you in your local library


The next thing is to decide where to meet, such as:

  • In each others’ homes
  • In a local café or pub
  • At the local community hall or church hall
  • In the communal lounge
  • In each other’s sheds!

… you could even ask about meeting in the library


How do you borrow the books?

  • Ask the library to create a book group membership.
  • One person in your Group will be the named contact.
  • Your named contact will need to be a library member and be happy to take responsibility for the group card and deal with any overdue charges when returning books.
  • The chosen set of books will be made available at your local library.


How do we choose a title to read?

  • Go to the Reading Group Collection list, which you may print off. There are ten copies of each title.
  • If you need a title not on the list we may be able to supply copies from stock; however, each group member will have to reserve a copy individually.
  • Please provide us with a list of titles and dates required as far in advance as possible - six months is usual.
  • Send your list to
     or ask your local library.
  • All sets are issued from Barry Library to the local library of your choice and will arrive in good time for your meeting. However, we cannot guarantee a particular book for a definite date if it has already been reserved by another group.


When will you receive the books?

  • The library will inform your named contact when your latest title is ready for collection.
  • The named contact collects the books and they are issued to the Group’s card for six weeks.


May we extend the loan past six weeks?

  • No, not usually. Another group may be waiting for the title.
  • The usual overdue charges apply for books not returned within the six-week period.
  • All books should be returned together in the box they came in.
  • If a book is lost or damaged the contact person will be charged the full replacement cost.


Ideas for your first meeting

These ideas are designed to get people talking about the books they like and dislike and why. They are good ice-breakers but may need a little advance preparation. If the group is lucky enough to meet in a library it’s a great opportunity to explore the shelves together and discuss different genres.

  • Desert Island Books – which 3 books would you take with you to your desert island?
  • Great Foundations – what books shaped your childhood reading habit? Bring along and talk about your favourite childhood reads.
  • It’s a Wonderful Life! – do you like reading about other people’s lives? Tell the group about a biography that left an impression on you.
  • The Good, the Bad and the Unknown – choose three books: one that you love, one that you hate and one that you would like to read, and tell the group why
  • Screen Capture – which books have transferred well to the big screen? Which ones haven’t? Does seeing the film inspire you to read the book, or vice versa? What books would you like to see made into films?
  • Read Aloud – share an extract from a favourite novel by reading it aloud to the group. This could be a good way of starting off a new group read too.


Ideas for your second meeting

You’ve all read the same book, now is the time to talk about it! Some reading groups check the internet for reviews of the books they are reading, or for background information on the author. This can often spark an interesting conversation and disagreements are common. Everybody’s opinion is of equal value and while all should be encouraged to contribute, no-one should feel excluded or ridiculed. There is also a page in the book box for you to write a group review of the book and return with the books. This may eventually appear on our Book Reviews web page.

  • Were you drawn in to the novel right from the start, or did it take some time to get going?
  • Did you skip any boring bits?
  • Did you feel empathy for any of the characters?
  • Who was your favourite/least favourite character and why?
  • How did the novel make you feel?
  • Did you like the ending? Would you have ended it differently?
  • Would you read another book by this author?


What else can Reading Groups do?

Occasionally there are events arranged by the libraries and other organisations to which Reading Groups in the Vale are invited. News of these is emailed out to group leaders well in advance. It’s also a good idea to join the mailing lists of groups like the organisers of the Penarth and Cowbridge book festivals. For groups who want to take their interest further afield, why not organise a day trip to Hay on Wye or Cheltenham during their literary festivals?


What about Reading Groups for young people?

Some of our larger libraries run Chatterbooks reading groups for younger people aged 8 to 12 years old.

See our Children’s Pages for more details.


Who Else Writes Like...?

Read all the books by your favourite author and want to find out who writes in a similar style, or just fancy exploring new genres? Use 'Who Else Writes Like...?' to help you. 
Access Who Else Writes Like on a library PC  
Access Who Else Writes Like remotely  e.g. from home: you will be asked to type in your library card number.




There are also many websites aimed at enthusiastic readers where you can read and post reviews and find out more about your favourite authors.