Mother Daughter Books Clubs are a simple, fun way to share reading with your school-aged and teen girls and they offer so much more than just a social event around a book.
They inspire a love of reading and help girls gain confidence in sharing their opinions, evaluating how they feel about a topic, weighing characters’ decisions and pondering how they’d handle that situation.
My oldest daughter and I joined an established Mother Daughter book club, The Book Girls, several years ago and we have enjoyed connecting by reading the same book and having this time together. We Moms have seen such growth in the girls discussions, books selections and interpretations of the stories we read. It’s developed from basic plot discussion to in-depth explorations about ethics, the meaning of gratitude, differences in people and cultures, dystopian worlds and human nature, among other thought-provoking topics.
Last summer, when my youngest daughter was seven, we were reading a book and the main character went to a book club. She asked me, “What do you do at book club?” and that’s when I knew it was time to initiate a Mother Daughter book club with her friends.
We started out with second grade girls and the classic James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl which had been celebrating it’s 50th anniversary. The girls dove into the story and while at younger ages it’s predominantly about learning to love reading and encouraging girls to feel confident in sharing their own ideas about a book; the girls also talked about how it would feel to be James, what their reactions would be to huge talking insects and even to think about comparing and contrasting James with themselves and their lives. That first night together, the five friends named themselves the “Book Bugs.”
From the start and as we continue, it’s important to let them know it’s not school and that there’s no right or wrong answer; we needed to give them “permission” to say what they really feel about a book. They’re learning to trust their interpretations and evaluations at their age level.
They don’t have to like a book or feel pressure to say nice things about it. They can disagree with someone else’s ideas and see things differently from their friends, we’re teaching them that it’s all okay and what a book discussion is about. The girls habitually raise their hands to speak, but we nudge them to speak out and offer answers while being respectful of one another.
Sometimes a question is asked to everyone in the room, girls and Moms alike: Who was your favorite character? What job would you want to be assigned? (The Giver by Lois Lowry) Would you change your fate if you had the chance? (Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin)
I modeled the new book club after The Book Girls format, each girl gets a chance to host, choose the book and ask the questions. As the girls grow, they’ve taken on most of the responsibility for planning and preparing the discussion and activities, with the younger girls, there’s more guidance and assistance from the Moms.
We meet on Sunday evenings at 6:30 pm every 6-8 weeks or so. It’s not monthly aiming to keep it manageable and relaxed, but it’s not too far apart either as to lose momentum.
Generally, the hostesses will have an activity or two that fits into the theme of the book, for example, in a book when kids made a flyer to market a restaurant, (Noodle Pie by Ruth Starke) the girls made their own new flyers, or in a book with kids having silly names at camp (Truly Winnie by Jennifer Richard Jacobson), the girls gave themselves and each other silly names.
We also work to have the snacks fit the theme of the book, like Vietnamese food for a book about Hanoi, or Oreo cookie “mud” with green sprinkles and gummy worms and bugs for James and the Giant Peach. (I also served fuzzy navels with peach schnapps for the Moms at that one and peach juice for the kids.)
I want to pass on my love of reading to my kids and my teen daughter completely has the reading bug, she devoured 20 books over the summer, big books of five-six hundred pages. Book Girls gives her the opportunity to share the stories she’s reading with me, and to comfortably dig in with her friends and their Moms. There’s something quite valuable about young girls hearing life lessons from other adults.
Try a Mother Daughter Book Club, be creative, they are a fun way to instill a passion for books and to share a regular activity together. I’m actually thinking, I wonder how a Mother Son Book Club would work, why leave the boys out of this educational and bonding experience?
Some books we’ve read: