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May 7, 2014

The Daily Parent: Using mother-daughter book clubs to raise confident girls

(Continued)

This was the same dynamic that happened with books about girls. I recall a lot of mothers talking about this and feeling sad and outraged. Everyone wondered whether the Harry Potter series, which had just begun at the time our book club formed, would be receiving the same voracious following if it were about a Harriet rather than a Harry. Funny (and depressing) how these conversations so many years ago were not very different from the ones we still have today.

Around the same time that I was contemplating a book club, a woman named Shireen Dodson wrote a book called “The Mother-Daughter Book Club” and another called “100 Books for Girls to Grow On.” My local bookshop in Concord devoted its storefront window to a display of Dodson’s books, as well as some of the books that Dodson recommended girls read, all of which focused on strong female heroines. As my daughter and I walked past the bookshop, the display in the window beckoned to us, and we went inside. My daughter immediately said, “I want to do that!”

Thus began the club that all roads had been leading to. Over time, as the girls got older, the mothers handed over the reins to the girls, who chose the books we would read together each year. I can say without hesitation that our mother-daughter book club was the most extraordinary formative experience in my relationship with my daughter, and I cannot recommend it highly enough to any mothers looking for ways to expose their young daughters to female-centric literature, and to enrich their emotional bonds with their daughters.

In a culture that is not always healthy for today’s girls, and that can make the job of raising girls feel intimidating or isolating, it is crucial for mothers to join together as villages to model positive femininity and guide daughters in ways that are uplifting and enjoyable. While mother-daughter book clubs can do a lot for girls, I can’t stress enough how much these clubs can also do for mothers. Raising kids today is hard, and raising girls comes with a unique set of challenges for mothers. There were times I felt confident about how I was parenting my daughter when she was younger, and other times I looked to the moms in the club for assistance — either through a direct conversation, or simply by watching what they modeled with their own daughters.

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