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Mother-daughter book clubs — reading between the lines

Mother-daughter book clubs aren’t just about books.

They’re about parent-child relationships: improving communication and fostering emotional bonding.

A book club is a safe, neutral environment to discuss a broad range of topics. As girls mature, relevant issues — including those that are delicate, uncomfortable, or embarrassing — can be addressed within the context of texts.

Stories deal with depression, isolation, divorce, moving to a new home, losing friends, dating, sex, death, and a whole host of other issues that can serve as a jumping-off point for conversation.

Discussing these issues in the third person, in reference to characters, is much easier than when it’s personal.

The book club context gives parents and children permission to communicate openly about weighty issues in young girls’ lives without fear of judgment or punishment. The discussions also allow parents to convey their values and beliefs to their children without sermonizing.

Promoting and maintaining open communication allows mothers to provide guidance to their daughters as they seek independence and individuality.

“It’s amazing to see the transformative effect our book discussions have on how girls view their mothers,” says Michele Cromer-Poiré, who leads a mother-daughter book club with girls ages 8 to 12.

“The child gets to see mom as someone other than mom, as someone who reads, someone with thoughts and opinions — an individual. And vice-versa.”

Equally important to providing approachable discussion, being in a mother-daughter book club necessitates regularly carving out time to spend together — time dedicated to mother and daughter alone, without spouses or siblings.

If prioritized as a shared activity, participating in a mother-daughter book club underscores the value of the mother-daughter relationship.

As Cindy Hudson — author of “Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs” — puts it, by being in a mother-daughter book club, a mother shows her daughter that she’s important enough to set aside time for her alone.

A mother is giving her daughter the gift of her time, of personal attention. Unlike driving the soccer carpool, watching a swim meet from the stands, listening to piano lessons, or chaperoning a school event, book club requires parents to be fully engaged with their children.

Mother and daughter aren’t just spending time together, they’re spending time with each other, in dialogue.

Simply traveling to and from book club meetings gives mothers a chance to hear what’s happening in the girls’ lives.

Hudson, who offers her own firsthand experience as the founder of two long-running successful mother-daughter book clubs, feels a primary benefit of belonging to a mother-daughter book club is getting to know your daughter as an individual and staying connected with her as she grows up and away.

Julie, a Golden Valley mother, reflects that although one aim of her mother-daughter book club is to emphasize the importance of reading, first and foremost, it’s about strengthening mother-daughter connections.

“Most of the girls have their noses in books anyway.”

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