Book Clubs are Great Forum for Sharing Ideas and Nurturing a Lifelong Love of Reading
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Seattle mom Susan Maney and her daughter Julia will never forget the day the book Go to the Room of the Eyes, by Betty K. Erwin, came to life for them. It was a magical moment shared in their mother-daughter book club.
Written in 1969, Erwin’s story is a reflection of the times, as six children deal with civil rights concerns and meet a Vietnam vet suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. Set in Seattle, the club members were able to the house and some of the locations that are described in the book.
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A Place Where Kids Matter
Parent-child book clubs are a growing phenomenon throughout the country, with many bookstores and libraries hosting gatherings and friends and neighbors coming together to form independent groups. In the best clubs, librarians, educators and bookstore owners say, the thoughts and insights of kids and parents are equally valued and encouraged.
Both Maney and Julia, now 14, are convinced that the club they attended when Julia was 9 to 11 years old helped lay the foundation for her voracious book appetite. And she continues to share her ideas about what she reads with her parents.
A Less Reluctant Reader
“One of my daughters is what you might call a reluctant reader,” explains Sue Cain, whose daughters Maggie, 10, and Emily, 11, are in two different mother-daughter book clubs. “Even though she’s a straight A student, she’s not someone who will just sit down and read in her spare time. It really helps to have someone other than her mother to keep her reading. She loves seeing her friends and going to the book club and she understands that it would be embarrassing to go in and say ‘I haven’t read the book.’” The upshot is Maggie and Emily both read at least one good book a month outside their school assignments.
Listening with an open mind, speaking one’s own mind respectfully, recognizing and defining one’s personal values and forming opinions are all critical life skills, bookstore owner Susan Scott and other book club advocates points out.
Book Clubs are Not Just for Tweens & Teens
Although these sound like skills for older kids, book clubs are a great way to fost independent thinking and opinion-making in younger kids and even preschoolers. The key to success lies in finding ways to make a book tangible makes a real difference to younger kids’ enthusiasm.
“I like to keep all the elements a surprise and the kids really enjoy that aspect of the club – they are always trying to get secrets out of me,” says preschool bookclub facilitator Claudia Benbow.
“We always start with a craft or activity related to the book, but no one knows what it is until they get here. We serve a snack but keep it a surprise and I never divulge the next book until the end of the meeting.” She also shows deep respect for statements and ideas shared by kids and parents and goes out of her way to ensure that every child has a chance to speak.
That fact and the fact that many children are exposed to news and information about current events and controversial issues makes parent-child or facilitated book clubs an important place where kids start to find their own voice.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line, says teen librarian Angelina Benedetti, is that reading equals opportunity no matter the age – opportunity for personal, emotional and intellectual growth. A good book group will foster that growth and in doing so open up the world to a child.
Cheryl Murfin Bond is a freelance writer living in Seattle, Washington .