mom and daughter book club journals

My 8-year-old daughter and I started a book club this year. I suggested it because some of the books being read by our daughter at school were a little violent and depressing for our family’s taste. (I kind of lost it when she was reading aloud a part in a book where two children had been killed and left in a basement to rot. Decades later their bodies were being put in body bags by the coroner. Body bags for 8-year olds? Really? What happened to Charlotte’s Web?) I wanted our daughter to have a love of reading and to experience the many ways that a story can be told without mention of body bags and gruesome murders.

Here’s how we started our book club: Our daughter made a list of books that she had heard about or that her friends had read that were of interest to her. I reviewed all of the books that won Newberry or other awards for children’s literature in her age group.  I read lots of parent reviews on Amazon for titles on her list and mine. She decided the order in which she wanted to read them.

Part of the criteria for my list was trying to have a variety of methods of storytelling. Our first selection, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, tells the story through both text and wonderful pages of illustrations. Other selections include a book with soliloquies of children in a medieval village so the reader has to knit together the narratives to get the full story.

We’ve had fun going to the library checking out two copies of each book and reading them sometimes together aloud and sometimes quietly on our own in the evenings. We printed on cardstock little bookmarks for each of us with all of the titles we’ve chosen for the year.

We decided that we would have our meetings at a local diner that serves wonderful homemade soups. Each of us would prepare three questions ahead of time that we would not disclose to each other until we had ordered our soup. Our daughter asked if we could write the questions and answers in journals so we could remember the conversations. She had a fancy journal with a lock on it that she wanted to use while I had a blank lined journal that was just the right size.

We decided to print out the Amazon listings for each title and cut out the little tiny version of the book cover to include in our journals. I’m using double-sided tape to attach mine to the cover of my journal each time we read a new title. By the end of the year it should be covered.

Here’s the best part of it. By starting this mother-daughter book club I was able to turn an awkward situation (I didn’t care for some of the books the teacher chose) into a wonderful activity that we can share. I hope that this will continue through the teenage years as the discussion about the book brought up topics that never come up in the course of the day.

This has been the best idea I’ve had in a very long time.

16 Comments

  1. Leah
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    This post just makes me happy! My 7-year old, Sophie is in a book club at school during lunch and she was not impressed with the selection. She and I have talked about starting our own club, and now I will use your ideas to help us along. THANK YOU!

  2. Posted February 25, 2010 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    While I’m not for censorship in schools I wholeheartedly agree with you about body bags and coroners not being good reading material for an 8-year old. I don’t recall reading anything like that when I was young. I do remember loving the Little House on the Prairie series when I was in first grade. Kudos to you for making reading an enjoyable activity for your daughter! I like the journal idea too.

  3. Posted February 25, 2010 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    That is a wonderful idea! I am still a little appalled at the choice of reading for your daughter by her teacher! In school, I read things like James and the Giant Peach, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Charlotte’s Web. Kids already grow up too fast–no need to expose them to gruesome murders in elementary school. I think what you are doing is fantastic.

  4. sewpam63
    Posted February 26, 2010 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    This sounds AWESOME!!! : ) YOU are a TERRIFIC MOM!!! What a fabulous solution for a troubling situation. A book is a gift you can open over and over again.

  5. Posted February 26, 2010 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Your post made me smile – and I totally agree with you about the body bags book for 8 year olds. That would give my son nightmares.He is 7 this weekend and I think your idea is so great that I may copy you. My son has just got into Famous Five books by Enid Blyton – they are very old fashioned but great fun. It is nostalgia trip for me to re-read them with him. But it would be extra good to have some dedicated time just the two of us as that doesn’t often happen with a little sister on the scene!

  6. Posted February 26, 2010 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Love this idea! We homeschool, so I get the joy of choosing the books we use for read-alouds and such. But we don’t make a permanent record of the books we read or journal about them. I’m going to incorporate this “book club” idea for future read-alouds … thanks!

  7. Posted February 26, 2010 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    So did you talk to the teacher about the book choices? How did that go? Or were the books you describe actually chosen by the teacher, or just available?

  8. Posted February 26, 2010 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    Answer to Kay’s question: I emailed the teacher requesting a meeting to discuss it. We have been at that (public) school for 4 years and I have never requested a conference so I was surprised when the teacher said she wouldn’t meet with me to discuss the book choices.

    I then contacted the principal and calmly explained my concerns. She organized a meeting with the teachers who had chosen the books. It was clear that the principal was not going to do anything other than to support her teachers even though she seemed unaware and horrified at what I was saying. The teachers said that they don’t understand why I have a problem with this. I explained that I felt that while they might be fine books (I was trying to be diplomatic) for the middle-school audience for which they were intended that they are inappropriate for 8-yr olds. Some parents reported that their kids cried as they read one of the books. Reading levels and thematic appropriateness are two different things, I argued.

    The only option I was given was to not have my daughter read the books that my husband and I find problematic (there are four that included topics such as kids getting murdered, custody battles, alcohol abuse and brutal totalitarian regimes. Ironically my daughter and I have been reading and discussing It’s So Amazing about human sexuality with I think is important for her to read and understand. They also asked the kids–3rd graders– to read The Lightning Thief which is 400pgs in their “free time” in addition to their regular homework and activities in one month. Some kids could do this but for many it was way too much.). The teacher remains hostile to me but I’m taking the high road and continuing to plan parties and take in snacks. I’m trying to model for my daughter how you can disagree with people but still work with them and be cordial.

  9. JulieKP
    Posted February 27, 2010 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    Would you mind posting your reading list? I am always on the lookout for good books that my almost 8 year old and I can read together. We have always read every night together before bed. When we brought her home from China it was a soothing act that prepared her for bed. The habit has stuck and we are now reading all kinds of wonderful books together. Some I have read before as a child and some that are new to both of us.

    It is too bad the teacher is being so hostile. The parent teacher partnership is so important for a child’s learning. But the higher ground is the only way to be. Good luck with the rest of the year.

  10. Posted February 27, 2010 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    As an elementary school librarian, I am saddened and shocked at the book choices made by the teachers. I applaud your “high road” approach. It’s such a slippery slope. I cannot imagine having my 2nd and 3rd graders reading The Lightning Thief – it’s much too long and not really age appropriate! A new favorite in my library is the Emily Windsnap trilogy by Liz Kessler. Thanks for sharing a wonderful idea! Reading together doesn’t have to stop once your child can read independently – I can’t wait to have a book club with my nearly 4 year old someday!

  11. Carla
    Posted February 28, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    This is so lovely – thanks for sharing! I can’t wait until my daughter is old enough for us to do this!

  12. Posted March 1, 2010 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    Your mother-daughter book club for two sounds wonderful. And you’re right that it’s so important to keep kids reading for fun. There’s plenty of time to tackle issues like the ones you mentioned when they get older.

    You may want to check the book reviews and author interviews at my website (Mother Daughter Book Cub.com) for more ideas. I group books by appropriate age, and I try to include lots of books that are fun as well as those with great issues for moms and daughters to discuss. If you ever decide to expand your group of two, you also may find ideas there to create a bigger book club.

  13. Posted March 2, 2010 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    This is a terrific idea. Considering the school’s stance, I think you should also include the books your daughter reads for school in your club, so you can ward off any psychological problems in the future.

  14. Jessica
    Posted March 2, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Wow! Thanks for sharing…this idea is awesome! I, like everyone else here, agree with you totally about the school’s book choices. Like Jennifer, I homeschool so this isn’t a problem, but I have a beginning reader and am always on the look-out for beginner’s books and the other day came across a “Step into Reading” book of horror stories! I remember reading a similar book when I was older and it terrified me, so imagine how my five-year-old would react! I was really shocked. I admire you for staying involved with the school and being so patient! Schools need more parents like you involved!

  15. Posted March 4, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    This is fabulous. My daughter and I have an informal version of this, but this will really tickle her!
    We are finishing up The Story of Helen Keller, and we read Island of the Blue Dolphins, and Tuck Everlasting (which we then watched the movie). All of these were great conversation pieces for us. I would love to see your list, would you mind passing it along??

  16. Posted March 21, 2010 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    This is such a fabulous idea. I copied part of your blog and sent it to my granddaughter in Texas (I’m in Illinois). We have conversations via Skype and my husband plays checkers with her via Skype. Your Mother-Daughter bookclub has now turned into a Grandma-Granddaughter bookclub. I’m starting with your list as a valuable tool for conversations from afar.

    BTW. I also was influenced by your quilt ideas shown at our Guild. I’m sending a pic to you. Fabulous “Fun Quilts”!


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