The Prison Education Project (PEP) supports breaking down barriers to education and creating more opportunities to learn. Learning occurs through many forms and in many settings, not just from lectures in a traditional classroom. Some of the best learning happens through dialogue and discussion with others, and book clubs have long been known for creating an environment conducive to this end. This fall, PEP is introducing a new book club, The Great British Book Club, organized and facilitated by Victoria Thomas.
According to Thomas, the goal of this book club is to provide a stress-free environment where students can enjoy reading literature from some of the great British writers without having to worry about writing a paper or taking an exam. During the semester, students will read Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, and The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy. Students will have one month in between discussion sessions, which allows ample time to read even the lengthier novels.
“I wanted to give my students an opportunity to experience some of the greatest writers in English in a community environment that encourages reading for the sheer joy of it.”
Being British herself, Thomas hopes that she can share some of the culture and literature from her life to her students. At the same time, Thomas believes that reading more can have positive effects for her students; it can help them understand how great writers get their messages across and will in turn help them be better writers themselves.
“The best way to become a good writer is to read, read, and read some more.”
Another benefit of this book club is it allows students from different years to come together and participate in discussions that may be hard to come by with their busy class schedules.
“I hope to encourage all the students to see that understanding these literary references is a reward unto itself, is personally relevant to them, and that no text is too difficult for them.”
Victoria Thomas is the regular instructor for the first-year Critical & Researched Writing class and the intensive Argumentation writing class offered at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center.