No time to organize a group? Create your own private book club.
Here are five quick tips to help get you started:
Choose books that appeal to the whole family and read them
aloud. Children enjoy repetition and ritual, so try selecting a
daily or weekly time when everyone can gather for a book.
Supplement with picture books. If your read-aloud is set in a
distant time or place, visit the library for picture books or
illustrated nonfiction books that will help your children imagine
the story's setting.
Give little ones something to do with their hands while they
listen. First grade teacher Cathy Ward likes to offer her students
the opportunity to crochet or finger-knit while she reads aloud to
Celebrate when you finish the book. Whether it's a trip to Naper
Settlement after Little House on the Prairie or a campout in the
backyard after Hatchet, connecting your book to a special family
activity will help make the book club experience memorable.
Great food, great conversation and great literature: combine
these elements and you have the book club, an activity virtually
tailor-made for moms, who tend to relish book club meetings for the
opportunity to escape diapers, dishes and-temporarily, of
course-their kids, and relax with a glass of wine among women
Recently, however, it seems that no sooner are the diapers
outgrown than the kids are being invited along to book club,
especially if those kids happen to be girls.
"I probably had the idea for a mother-daughter book group even
before my daughter was born," says Oak Park mom Deborah Wess, who
organized a book club for fellow moms and their daughters four
years ago. "It just seemed like a perfect fit for my interests:
reading, reading quality kids' books and reading with other
After her daughter's birth, Wess read The Mother-Daughter
Book Club, Shireen Dodson's memoir of starting a book club
with nine other moms and their girls.
"It crystallized a lot of my reasons for having a
mother-daughter group," she says. "Not only did I think it would be
valuable for the girls and moms to discuss books, I felt it could
be a pro-girl, feminist activity."
For moms just starting or joining a mother-daughter book club,
part of the pleasure of the experience can come from having a fresh
reason to seek out and read the best children's literature.
"I enjoy reading the children's books I missed growing up," says
Cris Rivas, also of Oak Park, about the club she participates in
with her 6-year-old daughter.
Rivas reads the books aloud to her daughter, which literacy
experts say is an important activity for parents to engage in with
"Beyond the primary grades, it's very common for children to be
interested in texts that are beyond their reading level," says
Camille Blachowicz, professor of education and director of the
Reading Center at National-Louis University. Reading aloud to
children even after they are independent readers, she says, "is a
wonderful way to keep increasing their vocabulary, especially when
you're reading something that is just above their level."
Another activity that supports literacy skills is simply talking
"We know that parent-child interaction builds vocabulary,"
Blachowicz says. "Not just answering questions, but a real
conversation, with give and take."
So how do you host a literary salon for 6-year-olds?
First grade teacher Cathy Ward of Chicago likes to challenge her
students to make personal connections to a story, asking children
whether they have ever been in a situation like one a character is
"It's OK to stop and discuss the story as you're reading," she
says. "You don't have to wait until you're finished."
As children get older, they may gravitate toward books that
resonate with their own concerns about social relationships and
growing up. For mothers, book club meetings can become a window
into the social and emotional lives of preteen and teen girls. For
the girls, it's an opportunity to learn more about their friends'
ideas, feelings-and literary tastes.
Alex Brockman, 13, and Daisy Waid, 11, both of Berwyn, agree
that one of the best parts of belonging to a book club is reading
books they might not otherwise read.
Both girls also value the social time with peers and adults.
"It's like having a party for no reason," Brockman says.
Gloria Mitchell is a mom and freelance writer involved in three mother-daughter book clubs.
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