While I was reading Her Next Chapter, the new book out on mother-daughter book clubs, I got chills. Multiple times. I felt so excited because I kept getting ideas about how to talk to my daughters about issues that are important to them. Before this book, when bringing something up like bullying, it was not uncommon for me to feel uncool, out of touch, or intrusive. I am still all of those things, but now I see a bridge I can cross, or at least walk half way over to meet my kid: a mother-daughter book club.
Talking to kids can be hard when you have strong opinions or beliefs. Your children are likely to either co-opt your opinion or react against it, instead of finding the strength, courage, and sense of self to figure out what they think. That’s why parents are advised to “mirror” little kids as the best way to help them gain a stable sense of self. But what about when they’re older? How do you show children what you think, while still hearing what they have to say? Listen to them without drowning them out? Kids are not small adults, and it doesn’t work to simply say to them: “This is what I think. Now, tell me what you think?” But a mother-daughter book club can help provide the structure and safety for rewarding mother-daughter interactions around the major challenges of growing up.
In Her Next Chapter, author Lori Day shows moms how to use books to talk to their daughters. She organizes Her Next Chapter around Middle Grade or Young Adult media that deal with different important issues in a girl’s life. Categories include: Stereotypes and Sexism, Sexualization of Girlhood, body image, bullying, abuse, sexuality, power/ leadership, and girls around the globe. For each of these sections, Day recommends books, movies, and other media like TED talks or YouTube videos. She also provides excellent discussion questions.
So if you want to talk to your daughter about bullying, instead prying answers and information out of her, try picking up Stargirl. Day describes this protagonist as “unlike most girls we know in real life because she does not care what anyone thinks of her– not of how she dresses, dances, or sings.” Everyone loves her, but then the popular girls get jealous and shun her. So she tries to be more normal. That doesn’t work either. Day doesn’t spoil the ending, but writes that it’s stunning. I read the description to my ten year old daughter, and she’s totally into it. We’re both going to read the book and then talk about it. Day includes 8 discussion questions about Stargirl such as- this is all one question: “How important is it to Stargirl to be liked? What about Leo? How important is it to you to be liked?” Another question: “One of the beautiful things about Stargirl is how much she cares about bad things happening to other people, yet she seems unaware or unaffected when bad things happen to her. Do you know any girls like this? If so, how are they treated by other kids?”
My daughter is especially interested in watching the movies Day recommends in the bullying section– “Odd Girl Out” and “A League of Their Own.”
There are many great sections in Her Next Chapter by Day’s daughter, Charlotte Kugler. Kugler gives her own recommendations, for example in the Bullying section, she suggests the Uglies series by Scott Westerfield. She writes about the challenges and rewards of her book club with her mom, and how it influenced her.
Her Next Chapter takes you through the steps of how to start a real book club with multiple moms and daughters. Day shows you how to keep your club healthy and functioning at the highest level. Reading about this institution and the work it takes, I am aware I can’t fit it in my life right now. Mostly, with three daughters that are young, there’s too much going on along with finishing my own book right now. But even without committing to a whole club, I see how to use the information in Her Next Chapter for the benefit of my whole family, and that’s one of the many reasons I wanted to blog about it. I hope to do the full book club someday. It sounds like heaven, or at least, the mother-daughter incarnation of it.