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Parent-child book clubs: Again, where are the men?

I originally intended for this series of articles to cover various permutations of parent-child book clubs.

When I was unable to find a current father-son or father-daughter book club, this became a series on mother-daughter book clubs.

It’s unclear whether men and boys are reading less than females, or if they are simply not discussing their reading in a group setting.

I asked the mother-daughter book club leaders I interviewed for their thoughts on the scarcity of father-son book clubs.

Julie of Golden Valley pointed out that almost every mother in her mother-daughter book club is also a member of an adult book club. The girls have seen their mothers reading in their own groups for years.

“For the most part, men don’t model book club behavior for their children. That’s not to say that dads don’t read, they just don’t see it as a group activity.

“That’s my armchair analysis.”

Jon Scieszka, popular children’s author and founder of the site GuysRead.com would probably agree.

According to Scieszka, one reason behind boys’ general indifference to reading is the lack of positive male role models for literacy.

“Because the majority of adults involved in kids’ reading are women, boys might not see reading as a masculine activity.”

Among his suggestions for remedying this situation is to start a “book club for guys.”

By joining a book club for boys and the important male figures in their lives, or by simply participating in an adult book club, men impart to their sons the importance and joy of reading.

Michelle Zimmermann, who runs the mother-daughter book club at the North Mankato Taylor Library, isn’t sure why the library doesn’t offer a book club program involving fathers or sons. She chalks it up to lack of demand.

“We knew [back in 2008] that we wanted to implement a parent-child book club program. There were a lot of girls who frequented the library with their mothers, so a mother-daughter club seemed like a natural choice.”

“We’re pretty relaxed about who comes to meetings,” says Zimmermann, noting grandmothers regularly participate. “We even had a dad attend one of our meetings because mom couldn’t make it and the daughter really wanted to come!”

Zimmermann is unsure how much interest there is in a book club for boys. “The library has had a few inquiries about a father-son book club, so that may be something we’ll create in the future.”

“There was a father-son club at the University Club,” says Michele Cromer-Poiré, who facilitates a mother-daughter book club at that location, “but it didn’t last very long.”

“A lot of boys are good readers,” insists Cromer-Poiré, “but girls generally develop advanced reading skills earlier than boys.”

For some boys, reading is enough of a struggle that it doesn’t appeal to them as a recreational activity. “Girls are more likely to curl up with a book in their free time.”

Perhaps the portion of the local book-clubbing community that I am familiar with isn’t representative of the whole.

Perhaps fathers and sons are meeting to read and discuss books in schools, libraries and homes across Minnesota.

I would be glad to learn that that’s the case.

Readers, if you’re familiar with an active father-son, father-daughter or mother-son book club in Minnesota, let me know. Email aotto [at] minnpost [dot] com.

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