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.