Because planning a program doesn't just take 5 minutes

The Boys in the Boat

This was the second meeting of my Boys 5th-8th grade book group.  Most of them are science fiction / fantasy readers, and their parents asked me at the last meeting to choose something outside their comfort zone, so I went with sports nonfiction.

Program Plan:

Discuss the book while snacking on pie.  Then do an Olympic quiz and/or some trust building activities.

What Happened:

Only one family showed up, so we included the sister as well.  We talked about the book (fortunately, he loved it!) and took the quiz.  At the end, he told me how much fun it was to have book club for just his family.  Super cute!


Possible questions for discussion:

  1. Winning at crew requires not just individual strength, but the ability to work as a team.  Tell about a time when you did something with teamwork that you couldn’t have done alone, or a time when you saw a team not work because people weren’t able to work together.
  2. Joe said that he wasn’t upset with his family for the way they treated him, but Joyce was very angry with Joe’s family.  How did you feel towards Joe’s father?  What, if anything, would you have liked him to do differently?
  3. Joe had complete freedom as a teen, but Joyce’s life was very controlled.  What are the advantages and disadvantages of growing up in a family with no rules vs. many rules?  Where would you like to see your family on the line between totally free and totally strict?
  4. Both for the national championships and the Olympics, Joe and his teammates traveled places they had never been before and met people unlike the working class people they knew at home in Washington.  Tell about a time when you went someplace new.  How did you feel?  What did you do to get comfortable?
  5. The U.S. Olympic teams saw the 1936 Olympics as a fight between the values of the United States and the values of Nazi Germany.  What are our values in the United States today?  How have they changed since Joe’s time?
  6. Joe’s experience rowing in college and at the Olympics impacted him deeply throughout his life.  What experiences have you had in your life so far that have really stayed with you?
  7. There are a lot of inspirational books and movies about underdogs in sports.  Why do you think this is true?  Did this book inspire you?


Possible Activities:

  • Olympic trivia:
  • Trust building activities:
    • Trust walk (parents lead kids blindfolded through an obstacle course and vice versa)
    • Blind crossing (one person is blindfolded; others lead him through an obstacle course verbally without touching)
  • Teamwork activities:
    • Paper and straws game (from
    • Any other challenge where they work in a group to complete a task

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