Tea and biscuits have a deep association with book groups, but this connection is significant for book groups that meet in prisons.
Almost every volunteer and librarian who spoke at the Prison Reading Group conference at Roehampton University last week, talked of tea and biscuits and how integral they are to meetings. It was just one of the details that fascinated me, that put prison reading groups on a par with any other reading group in any community.
The conference was held, primarily, to share wisdom among the volunteers and librarians who run book groups in prisons. For an outsider like me, much of that wisdom was fascinating.
For instance, continuity of book groups is best among long-term prisoners and 'lifers'. This makes so much sense, but how many of us had ever thought about it? The best place to meet is behind closed doors where prisoners and less likely to be overheard by others. However, a few volunteers felt it attracted more members if other prisoners could see and hear the group - joining proved less intimidating.
Not all prison reading groups are open to all prisoners. In some places, a warden has to state that each prisoner is safe to be with the mostly female volunteers and librarians - this is especially the case with sex offenders and those with violent histories. 
I hugely admire those who work or volunteer among the incarcerated. Studies show that reading groups in prison bridge the gap to learning among prisoners with little formal education. 
When it comes to titles that proved popular in prisons - more soon!