One motherly regret (that I’m willing to admit publicly) is that I never participated in a mother-daughter book club. Curious as to what the girl-child and I missed out on, I’ve convinced my dear friend Sharry Wright into sharing some of her tips for planning and facilitating a mother-daughter book club.
After you read this post, be sure to check out Sharry’s lovely blog, Kissing the Earth, which she authors with fellow author, Tamara Ellis Smith. It’s chocked full of gorgeousness in both word and image form.
Hi Sharry! Thanks for being here on WOTS today!
Hi Sarah! Thanks so much for asking me to talk a little about one the most favorite things I get to do—work as a moderator for mother-daughter book clubs!
Please describe your group to us.
Right now I have one group of five mothers and their third grade daughters and one group of five moms and sixth grade girls. And another group of third graders starting up soon. I let the moms decide a meeting time that best fits their busy family schedules.
How often do you meet?
We meet about once a month. The younger group meets for two hours on Sunday afternoons, the older group for two hours on a Monday or Tuesday evening. They take turns hosting at their homes—the host provides tea and sweets for the Sunday group and a light supper for the older group.
How are the books chosen?
The hosting girl chooses the book to read and discuss from a choice of three that I give her—three books that I think she will especially enjoy, but will also be appropriate for the whole group and make for a lively and rich discussion. Then a week before the meeting, I correspond with the hosting mom and daughter to help them come up with four or five discussion questions. At the meeting, I start the discussion and then turn it over to the hosting girl, moderating as needed to keep the discussion on track and on time.
What kind of book leads to a good discussion?
I have found that the books that make for the best discussions are those with some ‘meat on their bones’ so to speak. I try to only offer well-written books with well-rounded characters that both the girls and moms can invest in. I look for stories with strong thematic threads, with characters in difficult situations who have to make difficult choices and do things that are hard for them to do. Some of the best discussions come from the question—how would YOU act, feel, respond in the same situation? We’ve had some great discussions about characters who were forced to stretch and grow, or characters that had to face their flaws and the flaws of others.
As you well know, one of the great benefits of coming out of the MFA in Writing For Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts where we basically lived and breathed children’s literature around the clock for two years, was the entry into a lifelong community of children’s book writers, teachers and librarians who all share this love of reading, writing, teaching and discussing Middle Grade and Young Adult literature and are fantastic resources for recommending great books.
Are there any taboo topics?
In terms of taboos, I do try to keep the books we read age appropriate. I’ve had, on occasion, one of the girls with an older sibling ask if we can read a certain book that I know is too sexual or too violent for six graders, too scary or upsetting for third graders. And I have made a solemn vow to both my groups that I will never bring them a book where the dog is killed!
GOOD CALL! No dead dogs!
Any recommendations for others wanting to form their own group?
For anyone interested in starting a mother daughter book club, I say, do it! I was lucky enough to enjoy many years of mother daughter book clubs with both of my girls (now 22 and 25!) from the time they were 9, well into high school. My girls and I look back on the time we spent reading and discussing books together as incredibly precious and valuable.
I would recommend keeping the group manageable—five or six mothers and daughters makes for a nice sized group. Use your local children’s librarian and independent bookstore children’s book buyer as resources—they love to talk about and recommend great books! If you don’t want to meet in each other’s homes, most libraries have a public meeting room you can reserve for book club meetings.
Thanks so much for being here, Sharry!
If anyone has any questions about parent-child book clubs, ask away!
Sarah Wones Tomp
WRITING ON THE SIDEWALK