Back in February, I posted a quick guide to setting up a successful book club, based on my own wonderful experiences with my book club. My daughter, at eighteen months, is perhaps a bit too young to join the club, but I love the idea of starting a mother-daughter club once she gets old enough. I’ve discussed this with some of the other mothers in my club, and everyone seems to like the idea. But we weren’t exactly sure how it would work. It’s one thing to vow to get together with our daughters once a month and all read a book together, but how could we use the club as an opportunity to have the kinds of conversations with our daughters we really want to have? How can we make sure it’s fun for them and not like homework? How can we use it to instill the values that we’d like to encourage in our daughters?
Given all of these questions, I was thrilled to read Her Next Chapter: How Mother-Daughter Book Clubs Can Help Girls Navigate Malicious Media, Risky Relationships, Girl Gossip, and So Much More (Chicago Review Press, May). The book was written by Lori Day, an educational psychologist, parenting coach and consultant, and the founder of a think tank focused on girl empowerment called the Brave Girls Alliance. The book was co-authored by Day’s daughter Charlotte, who is currently a senior at Mount Holyoke College and who was in a mother-daughter book club with Day from 2000-2006.
While I do think it will be fun to share my love of reading with my daughter, I’m most inspired to start a club like this when I think about the issues that will be facing my daughter as she grows up. These kinds of issues were precisely what drove Day to create the club. As the mother of a young girl, she looked around at the increasingly sexualized clothes sold in the girls’ departments of any clothing store, and the princess toys and the toy aisles known as “the pink ghetto” with a feeling of panic. At the same time she saw fewer and fewer books or movies with strong female protagonists. Despite all these good reasons to start the club, the final push came from Charlotte herself, after she and Day came across The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Shireen Dodson (Harper Perennial, 1997, revised in 2007). The book is another helpful resource for anyone interested in starting a club, containing anecdotes and stories, along with reading lists.
Once Day and Charlotte’s book club got started, it lasted six years. It began with five mother-daughter pairs meeting once a month, when the girls were in the third grade. At first the mothers chose the books, and as the girls got older, they began to choose for themselves. Though it eventually dwindled to three pairs, those who remained in the club were invested in it. In an essay that Charlotte wrote in the eighth grade, and which is included in the introduction to Day’s book, she explained one of the main benefits of the club: “The discussions we engage in during the meetings often begin as conversations about problems in the text that the protagonist encounters and overcomes, and inevitably shift seamlessly to conversations about similar problems we have experienced and dealt with growing up.” What mother wouldn’t want this for her daughter?
In the book, Day goes beyond recounting her own experiences with Charlotte to consider what she would do differently were she starting the club now, both as a result of what she learned through her experiences and the ways in which our culture has continued to change. The book includes some suggestions for how to start your club and keep it running smoothly, along with thoughts on how to tackle the big issues facing girls today, such as gender stereotypes, bullying, and body image, among others.
What books would you recommend for a mother-daughter book club?
Mother/Daughter reading outside: http://www.wechoosevirtuesblog.com/2013/03/
Mother reading to daughter: http://www.nymetroparents.com/article/How-to-Help-Your-Child-Have-a-Successful-School-