For over ten years now, my top go-to strategy when one of my kids has been grumpy is to grab a book, pull the unhappy child onto the couch, and read a story. The act of reading soothes me; listening to the words eventually settles my out-of-sorts child.
I specifically choose books that include a particular message about whatever challenge my child is facing, be it social exclusion, sibling jealousy, insecurity about appearance and skills, etc., and the books open a pathway to discuss the issues.
But in recent years, I realize that I’ve largely lost this technique as an option for comforting my oldest daughter. At almost eleven years old, she doesn’t want to sit with me while I read to her. She prefers to read to herself, alone in her room. It is rare for her to join her younger sisters and me on the couch for family story time.
How do I continue to bond over books with my growing tween? An answer to this question came roaring forward in the form on Lori Day’s new book, Her Next Chapter.
Day writes, “This book will help you form and run a specific kind of mother-daughter book club that teaches mothers how to help daughters prepare for – and proactively address – the challenges facing them today. “
Those challenges are vast. Just last year at school, one of my daughters did an activity in which each child stepped on a scale to see how much he or she weighed and was then asked to calculate what that weight would be on Jupiter. Although the weights were not publicly announced, the kids immediately began asking each other how much they weighed. Worried that she would be seen as too big, my daughter lied about her weight. Her insecurity about her size comes directly from the culture in which we live.
Cognizant of the many negative messages that the media sends to girls and women, Day has positioned her new book as a tool for mothers to use. "Her Next Chapter explains how to use mother-daughter book clubs as a vehicle for mothers to teach daughters media literacy so that girls learn to deconstruct the harmful messaging that bombards them every day,” said Day. “We talk a lot about the importance of teaching media literacy, but need to give adults some actual tools to do it. Moms and other female role models can open dialogue with girls by using female-centric books, movies and Internet media to introduce, discuss and explore some difficult but necessary topics. I remember doing this in my own club and it was actually really fun. We were a group of moms who didn’t take ourselves too seriously, and we found a way to get the girls talking that we all agreed we could not have pulled off alone in our own homes!"
Before I started reading Her Next Chapter, I must admit that although mother-daughter book clubs sounded great, I wasn’t seriously planning to create one. After all, there is barely enough time in my day to meet the needs of work, three kids, a husband, and a home.
Skeptical, I opened the book. I got sucked in within ten minutes and began contemplating ways to build a book club. Would it just be for my older daughter and some friends? Or should I extend it to my middle daughter too, who is a voracious reader? It could help the two sisters bond, and it could help me spend quality time with them. Hmm, and I could build in time to be with some other moms, something that is not at all easy to schedule. As we enter the tween years, I really need the support of other moms, something I’m realizing more and more each day. My kids switch from acting like little lunatics when they need a snack to acting like angels after they’ve been fed, and the thought of hormones mixing with hunger is frightening. It is so comforting when other moms share similar stories and worries.
Lori Day was aware of how much moms stood to gain from book clubs. She said, "What really surprised me about my own club, though—and I’ve seen this with so many others—is how much clubs can do for the mothers. Our media culture also erodes the self-confidence of women when it comes to parenting because moms are constantly told they are doing it wrong or can’t have it all or should have it all. It is endless. By joining together with other trusted women, moms really do find the strength of their own inner voices amidst a noisy culture that makes many of us question our own abilities and choices.”
Her Next Chapter makes the task of building a productive book club feel less daunting. The book is well organized by topics that are relevant to girls, such as “Mommy, Do You Think I’m Fat?” Day discusses the reasons behind why girls are obsessed with thinness, and then she provides a recommended book, discussion questions, and a fun activity. She repeats that structure as she delves more deeply into issues of beauty and culture throughout the chapter.
Her Next Chapter offers insights and commentary interspersed with recommendations for books, movies, activities, and discussion questions. Some of the chapters include:
- “What A Pretty Dress!” Helping Girls Transcend Gender Stereotypes and Sexism
- Dealing with the “Mean Girls”: How to Talk About Girl-on-Girl Bullying, and How to Raise Women to Be Allies
- Keeping Girls Safe: Encouraging Healthy Relationships and Behavior
- The Welfare of Girls and Women Around the World and Why That Matters to All of Us
And there are additional chapters and topics that can benefit each mother and daughter. I felt very excited when I finished reading Her Next Chapter, and I am in the midst of thinking about how to create one. In our family, Her Next Chapter is about to start.
Lori Day, M.Ed., is an educational psychologist, a consultant, and parenting coach with Lori Day Consulting. She has worked in the field of education for more than 25 years. Her daughter, Charlotte Kugler, helped write Her Next Chapter. Charlotte is a student at Mount Holyoke College.
Portrait of an Adoption is written by Carrie Goldman. Check out Carrie's own award-winning book Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear.