When my oldest daughter, Madeleine, and I started out in a mother-daughter book club nearly nine years ago, we weren't expecting to change our lives. Back then, we were only hoping to find a way to share our love of reading. Madeleine was in fourth grade and loved everything about books. She voraciously devoured them, and I read to her as well. A simple trip to the library turned into a workout, as we staggered out the door with armloads of books to read. Christmas and birthday packages always included gift cards to Powell's; our bookshelves at home were overfull. It was fun to see how much joy Madeleine got from losing herself in a good story.
But I noticed a disturbing trend among some of Madeleine's classmates. They were starting to label reading as "uncool." I didn't want her to lose her love of reading simply because it wasn't the "cool" thing to do. One day as I was talking about my concerns with my friend Karen, whose daughter Kirsten also loved to read, we decided to create a mother-daughter book club. We looked at it as a kind of sanctuary for our reading daughters.
Over the years, our book club became much more than a sanctuary for reading. The books we read provided an entrée for us to discuss issues that otherwise may have been awkward to bring up on our own. As a bonus, the moms got to hear what their daughters' peers thought about these issues, and the daughters got to hear what other moms thought.
When my daughter Catherine started fourth grade, of course we knew we would start a book club of our own. We read different books from the ones in Madeleine's club, but we talked about a lot of the same things.
Now, after nearly nine years in one club and six in another, I can't imagine life with my daughters without our book clubs. I believe we stayed closer to each other because of time we spent reading and discussing books. We created a community of friends who have supported each other through difficult times in life. And we have had a lot of fun along the way.
Here are some things to consider if you want to start a mother-daughter book club of your own:
- How old should your daughter be when you get started? Nine is an ideal age because most girls can read independently, and they think it's fun to hang out with their moms. You can also begin earlier if you keep the meetings simple. If your daughter wants to start a club when she's in middle school or high school, remember that it's never too late to get going.
- How big do you want your club to be? Are you more comfortable with a small and intimate group, or one that's large and energetic? I've been happy with six moms and daughters in both my groups, which is in between small and large.
- Who would you like to invite? Will it be girls from your neighborhood or in your daughter's class? Do you want to diversify and ask moms and daughters from other parts of your city? Each time I started a club, I invited half the members to join, and a friend invited the other half. That way we each knew some of the people and got to make new friends as well.
- Once you're established, will you take in anyone who wants to join or do you want to discuss new members as they ask to come aboard? This relates to how big you want your group to be and group dynamics.
- Where will you meet? My groups meet at our members' homes, but you can also meet at bookstores, libraries, coffee shops, and other gathering places.
- How will you choose the books? Will moms and girls choose together, will the moms be the ones to pick, or will the girls have the final say? Talk to a librarian or check out your favorite bookstore for staff recommendations. Online reviews can also be helpful.
Here are a few titles to help you get the ball rolling:
Recommended titles for 9- and 10-year-olds
Eleven Birthdays by Wendy Mass
Alphabet of Dreams by Susan Fletcher
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick
Savvy by Ingrid Law
Recommended titles for 11- to 13-year-olds
Year Down Yonder (00 Edition) by Richard Peck
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen
Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson
Tangerine by Edward Bloor
Recommended titles for 14 years and up
A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Light Years by Tammar Stein