One of the best feelings ever is reading a book and feeling like it has met you “where you are.” As an avid reader for as long as I can remember, I’ve had many of these moments. Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery, The Blue Sweater by Jacquline Novogratz, Yes, Please by Amy Poehler, just to name a few of my always-top-of-mind.

Beth Duda, director of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, was gracious enough to invite both my husband and me to be a part of her Stepping Forward book circle. As project manager of the book circles, I had already read the book. My husband read it as our circle meetings progressed, and when he finished, he told me, “Honestly, it didn’t really resonate for me.” I said, “I didn’t think it would.” To which his astute response was, “Then what was the point?”

An excellent question.

The point of supporting Stepping Forward book circles, from my view, is twofold. First, you never know what book will deliver an ah-ha moment. The Patterson Foundation is always inviting people to think in possibilities and if providing access to Rich Harwood’s practices and principles results in even a handful of ah-ha moments that is success.

Secondly, The Patterson Foundation is in the business of creating spaces. Not usually physical spaces but spaces for people to connect, learn, evolve, and strengthen relationships. To forge, as Debra Jacobs so often says, connective tissue. Book circles offer a unique environment for people to build connective tissue and weave new patterns. While Stepping Forward may not always “meet people where they are,” it does raise thought-provoking questions about our aspirations and relationships in community. Book circles provide a forum for those questions to be discussed rather than just pondered.

One of the reasons The Patterson Foundation asks for book circle leaders to send in stories is because experiments need data to know if the predicted outcome is occurring. While only a handful of book circles have finished meeting already, the stories are promising. Groups are having lengthy, “meaty” discussions. They’re staying over time and looking for activities that can build upon their book circle conversations. Sometimes, even the simple act of setting aside 60 or 90 minutes to be intentional about interactions makes a difference. No matter how someone feels about the book itself, book circles are creating spaces for people to meet each other where they are.

While Stepping Forward may not have met my husband where he is, 13 community members he wouldn’t have met otherwise did. That’s the point.

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