By Jane Balvanz, MSE, RPT
Professional School Counselor

I have a secret.  Whenever I want to know more about something I read a book.  That’s not the secret, though.  If I want to understand things deeply, I start a book club.  That’s the secret!  There’s nothing like learning new material with people who are as eager to learn it as you.  The benefits include many perspectives, critical thinking, inspirations, aha moments, new ideas, problem solving, and bonding.

Book Studies with Parents

I’ve held many successful book studies with parents.  Doing this over a few decades

with different parent populations and varied school demographics, I have a few ways of running groups to suit the needs particular to the school and the times.

Setting it Up

I start by choosing a book that will help my school with a particular problem.  The year we needed to know more about relational aggression, I chose Girl Wars: 12 Strategies to End Female Bullying by Cheryl Dellesega and Charisse Nixon.  Then I put an announcement in our school news.  Several parents signed up, we worked out a time and started to meet once a week.  All participants were female.  What started to be a learning session about relational aggression quickly evolved into discussion sessions of self-disclosure and self-discovery.  In an effort to help their daughters, these mothers also got to know themselves better.  The goal of the group was simply to read the book, learn about relational aggression, and discuss whatever came up.   Book chapters were read at home and discussed at school.  This particular group met after school.

How to Get Parents to Attend a Book Study Group

I know how hard it is to get parents to attend school events nowadays.  There are many barriers: time, transportation, babysitting, language barriers, space constraints, etc.  Here are some ideas.  You can circumvent almost any problem with a little creativity.

  1. Hold a sack lunch noon group.  Everyone has to eat.  Parents can eat while listening and discussing the book.
  2. Hold the group at night and provide babysitting. 
  3. Have your public library order several books if parents cannot buy their own.
  4. Ask parents to take turns hosting a group at their houses.  Some parents take great pride in doing this.
  5. Get community volunteers to help as translators for language barriers.
  6. Have a virtual study group.  Set up a Facebook page, Twitter group, school blog, etc.
  7. Consider providing audio books via the public library for auditory learners.

The Particulars

I like to assign the first chapter to be read by the time of the first gathering.  I offer the goal(s) I’d personally like to achieve through our book study.  Then I encourage parents to formulate their own.

I give brief notes I’ve written on the main points of Chapter I to everyone as we all discuss the chapter.  My motive is to divide up the rest of the chapters and have one to two people provide written notes per chapter.  That way everyone walks away with a copy of the highlights.  Participants appreciate the condensed form of the chapter, and those who give the notes feel proud of their contribution.

You may want to divide the discussion into three parts:

  1. What I’ve learned.
  2. What I question or have more questions about.
  3. What I wonder.

Have Fun!

I love book studies!  I love how you build relationships with parents this way.  I love what I learn, and most especially, I love what we discover together.

Have fun with yours, and be sure to write in to tell me your ideas and successes!



You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Bullying strategists Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner publish GAPRA’s bi-weekly articles. If you’re ready to guide children in grades K – 12 through painful friendships and emotional bullying:

For help with emotional bullying:

For the When Girls Hurt Girls® program: