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A Book Club for Parents and Kids

What It's All About

Sunday evening, five o'clock. Book talk, munchies, questions, confidences, laughter. It's a small reading group with a big gap in ages. Moms and daughters sharing their thoughts about their favorite books. It's a fresh way to look at literature and a unique opportunity for parents and kids to encounter each other on foreign turf.

What's behind the growing phenomenon of parent-child book groups? Fueled recently by the adult fascination with books like the Harry Hopkins series, perhaps the trend is intensified by concerns that kids are growing up too fast, too soon. Or is it simply the yearning on the part of many parents to share something with their pre-adolescents beyond the usual trip to the mall?

"My daughter reads voraciously and has begun to get into adult literature," explains one mother. "Being in a book club together has helped me get a better handle on what she's reading and thinking." The club -- five moms and five daughters -- is small. "Size affects the flavor of a club," she says. "We agreed to keep it intimate in the hope that these girls will have a forum when they're teenagers." Will that forum still include the moms? She laughs. "Who knows?"

Book Club Tips

In this book club there are no best friends. It's deliberately composed of girls from different schools to allow for more space and fewer overlapping loyalties. The club meets once a month, rotating to different houses for a two-hour session that includes supper. Precautions are taken to avoid food freak-out. Each host agrees to buy pizza from the same pizzeria. No surprises. The host mom and daughter are responsible for preparing a question or comment to jumpstart the discussion.

"The toughest part is to brainstorm a choice every month," the mother says. "One girl doesn't want to read anything but fantasies; others have their own loves and hates. But we emphasize breaking out of the usual mold. Let's try something different!"

Some books are chosen around themes. In October, the group discussed an Agatha Christie mystery and got together for a "ghost walk" provided by the town. During academic high-pressure months, the girls read shorter books or magazines. In December, they cut short a discussion of a story everyone found boring and made gingerbread houses instead. "It's not like school," the mother laughs. "It's OK to say you hated the book and couldn't get past page 100."

Be Flexible

Too much togetherness can be a drag, and where's the rule that says a group can't split up for a while? "There's always a point in the evening when the girls go off on their own," the mother reports. "Sometimes they come back with a skit that relates to the story we've been reading. Once they made up a jeopardy-type game. When we were reading Harry's Mad by Dick Kingsmith, they held a naming contest for the baby bird that was born at the end of the book."

Things have already started to change. One member and her daughter recently moved to New Mexico, but the connection continues. The club is already making plans to videotape a discussion and continue the dialogue via email.

Rx for Reluctant Readers

One parent calls it "a disguised dose of delicious medicine." What she's talking about is a parent-child book club, where reluctant readers or kids who have trouble focusing can relax and chat about stories in a non-competitive, non-academic setting. The arduous business of reading becomes less of a solo struggle. Anxiety levels drop. Hey -- this is fun!

Being part of a book club can also help kids observe and exercise social skills that are key to scholastic success and emotional well-being:

  • Resisting the urge to interrupt;
  • Making eye contact with the person who's speaking; and
  • Using body language to signal interest, disagreement, or skepticism.
Not all of us are born with these abilities, and it's a good forum for practice.
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