How to Start a Mother-Daughter Book Club
When my daughter started middle school, a mom in the neighborhood asked if we wanted to join a mother-daughter book club during the summer. Since I was feeling a little misty that my little one was going off to a big school, I said yes, we would join.
So began a mother-daughter activity that we are still participating in five years later. This is not a hard core book club - we meet only during the summer and winter/spring break - but it is a fun activity that has given us something to share along the way.
Now, another child is entering middle school and she came up to me the other day and asked when we were going to join a mother-daughter book club. Since no other mom was willing to start this, I figured that I had to take a stab at this.
Here is how I went about starting this round.
Mother-Daughter Book Club
Where to start?
The first part of how to get a book club going, is to identify some people who would be interested in the book club and who you would like to hang with. I thought about my who my child's friends were and who the moms were as well. Since I was joining this adventure, I wanted people in the club that I liked and would have fun with.
I sent out an email asking about 4-5 moms/daughters if they would be interested in joining. I did not want this to be a HUGE club, because having a discussion or doing an activity with too many people would be difficult. But, if only a few people show up, you can still meet, since there are at least 10-12 people involved. Also, depending on the size of where you are meeting (house, restaurant, etc..), you have to determine how many people can fit. Remember, each kid brings a parent, so it is not just children you are counting.
If your first choices say no (as has happened with us), you can always identify others to ask. Some people also want to know who will be involved, so an email with every name on it solves that problem for you quickly.
In my email, I explained that we would meet 1-3 times over the summer. How often you meet depends on when you start, how long the books are, and how often you want to meet. I started this late (end of June), so I indicated that we would attempt two books over this summer.
The decision needs to be made of who will be in charge each time of creating activities, leading discussions, setting meeting dates/times, etc... If you want to take on the job as the instigator, then you are set. if you want the job rotated, please make sure that you make that clear to the members. Some people hate leading a discussion and being the leader in a group like this makes them cringe. Some love it. Decide as a group how you will handle this detail.
What to Read?
Once I receive responses for those interested, I begin researching what book to read. In my original email asking about the book club, I also asked people to give me any recommendations they may have of books to read (this helps a lot!).
Reviewing those suggestions, I took out any books that were too long in my opinion (300 or more pages), books that were too new (too hard to get at the library/too expensive as a hard cover), books that a majority of the girls had already read, or books that were just too tedious. Since it was summer, I want lighter reading that will not turn into an awful chore. The point of this club is to have some fun reading over the summer with moms, not to torture all of us.
Some places to look for reading suggestions:
-Library reading lists - our library has reading lists for every age and genre. You can look these over and see what catches your eye.
-Summer reading lists from school - Our elementary, middle, and high schools all give the children reading lists for their appropriate age groups. You can review these lists and see what looks good. Also, if they have required reading for the summer, you can knock off one of the books from the reading list in your book club!
-Get suggestions from your kids and their friends. They know what they like and they know what is hot this week.
-Best seller lists- the Sunday paper always reviews books for Young Adults. You can see what is there.
-Book store lists - each book store in our area has age appropriate reading lists available.
-Talk to your local librarian. He/She can direct you to something that is fun, interesting, and available at the library for check out.
When you are looking for books, look online for some reviews. Amazon and Barnes and Noble usually have short summaries of the books you are looking at as well as reviews (these are really helpful) that can tell you whether the book is good, bad, or in-between.
The next step is to make sure that the book you choose is available. Are there several copies available at the local library? If it is a popular book, it may not be available. We try to make sure that it is not too new, so that you can buy it in paperback, not just hardcover. If it costs $20 to buy the book each time, you may turn people off.
Our book clubs usually offer three choices and let the kids vote on which one they like the best and would like to read. This gives them a choice and helps them make an investment in the book. If we just assign a book to read, I guarantee that it will always be the one that everyone hates. If you send out a list of three choices with a short summary and ask people to respond with their first and second pick, you can then have a majority rule. It just makes it more democratic and more enjoyable for all.
Once you get the votes back, you can let everyone know what book won. We usually give everyone about 2-3 weeks to read the book, depending on the length. If it is super short, a week or two will do. remember, moms are reading the book as well, so two people are sharing it. If the kid is really into it and reads it all day, the mom has to wait until after bed time to wrestle it away and be able to read. Keeping those things in mind will help you determine how long everyone needs to read the book. Also, if there are not enough copies of the book available, it may need to be passed around the group.
Reading the Book and Creating Activities
Keep in mind when picking a book, that for summer reading, as well as short winter and spring breaks, you want to keep it light and short. You do not want to pick a tome that makes everyone miserable and takes away from the fun of a break.
Whoever is heading the discussion/meeting needs to do some homework before the meeting. First of all - read the book. Seems obvious, but if I don't write it in here, someone will notice it and make a comment.
Some books have discussion questions in the back, so start there. If there are ideas provided and they are awesome, use them. You can change/adapt things to suit your children. If not, looking online is a start. You cannot image the ideas and websites that can be found about a book. Just type in the name of the book and the author and I guarantee that you will get more information that you ever thought possible. It will take some time to sort through it, but you can find lots of creative discussion starters.
You determine how deep you want the conversations at your book club. You can be philosophical, you can be funny, or you can just talk about how much everyone loved/hated the book. If you find a lot of information online about the book, you can get more creative. If there are only a few ideas, then your discussions will be more focused. A lot of times we have found that the group takes on a life of its own. The kids or the moms come in with certain ideas they want to share or topics they want to talk about. Once that takes off, you may be off the hook for leading the discussion. If they are passionate about their topics, they will run with them.
We usually try to have one activity planned, just to get the kids together. One book we read talked about origami. One of the moms brought paper and instructions for a few animals. That occupied the girls the whole time and gave them the impetus to talk about the book and what they liked and did not like. The task helped focus them on the book.
Another time the kids did a scavenger hunt. The book was about fairies and forests, and the family that hosted had a pond behind their house. The mom made up a list of items to look for and the girls were off. They talked while they walked and giggled about the silliness of the book.
Where to Meet?
Since I started this whole adventure, I figured I would host the first time. You can do this any way you want. You can host all of the meetings, you can ask people to rotate the host job (this is how we did my other daughter's club), or you can meet elsewhere (we have met at restaurants, a library, a park, a place related to your book, etc...), so no one has to clean their house.
Keep in mind that you need space for everyone to sit/gather, enough quiet to be able to talk, and room to move around. If you meet at a restaurant, your group should be small enough for everyone to be able to hear everyone else. If you meet at a library, you have to be quiet enough not to disturb others, but you probably cannot bring in food.
Our meetings usually last about 2-3 hours, depending on our moods, the book, and how late it is in the day.
Time to Meet!
Now, for the actual meeting!
In our club, there was always food involved (surprise, surprise!!). The host would usually provide some snacks, and if indicated, everyone else would bring something as well to share. We would usually meet in the evenings, so it was more snacky-type foods that were provided.
To go along with the book that we were reading, I would usually try to make something that would go along with the theme of the story. For example, once we read a book about a dog, so we made Puppy Chow Chex Mix (http://www.chex.com/recipes/RecipeView.aspx?RecipeId=45860&CategoryId=342). Another time, we read a fairy tale with kings and queens, so someone brought cupcakes decorated with a crown. You do not have to do this, but it makes it fun.
Once the food is out of the way, you need to pull out those activities and discussion points that were planned earlier. We usually stick with one activity and a few discussion points. When you get a bunch of women (and girls) together, there is a lot more chatting than discussion about the book, but honestly, getting together with our daughters and their friends is great in itself.
With all of the information above, you are ready to start your parent-child book club. Have fun with it. It is not meant to be hard or a chore. Pick fun books. Eat silly food. Do creative activities. Laugh, share, and talk. That is what spending time with your child should be - especially on a school break.
Remember, this is not only an idea for a mother-daughter club. You can do mother-son, father-daughter, or father-son. It is all up to you. Craft it any way that fits your needs and the needs of your child.