Using Mother-Daughter Book Clubs to Raise Girls to Be Leaders, Allies and Agents of Change

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Using Mother-Daughter Book Clubs to Raise Girls to Be Leaders, Allies and Agents of Change

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One of the most fulfilling and most memorable undertakings of my parenting journey was the formation of a mother-daughter book club, a collaboration with my then-eight-year-old daughter and four other mother-daughter pairs that would last for six years. We all discussed the need to counteract stereotyped and sexualized girl culture with positive messages about who girls and women really are and what they can do.

As mothers, we wanted to work together as a village to develop open communication with our daughters early on, so our girls would be listening (and talking to us) when all the marketing and media messaging aimed at girls needed to be deconstructed and kept at bay. We knew it was becoming increasingly difficult to raise happy, healthy girls with good self-esteem in our increasingly shallow, beauty-obsessed society. We felt we could do a better job at this together than separately.

I remember noticing how few books and movies for children had female protagonists, and of the ones that did, how few of those portrayed women and girls in strong, positive roles. As mothers, we wanted more for our daughters than stories that revolved around the adventures of boys and men as the default, leaving the stories of girls and women marginalized as chick lit and chick flicks.

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 to guide daughters in ways that are uplifting and enjoyable. The teaching of media literacy is critical, and is accomplished very successfully within clubs that use carefully chosen female-centric books and media as side doors into crucial conversations about growing up female.

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. This learning from other trusted and respected mothers is perhaps one of the least discussed but most important benefits to a mother-daughter book club today.

I have huge concerns about the parenting culture we have now, especially for mothers. Mothers are under constant media bombardment. You cannot open a magazine or browse articles online or tune in to FaceBook without reading some version of how mothers are doing it wrong. Or can’t have it all. Or should have it all. Or are not following the “right” method for potty training or breastfeeding or violin instruction or fill-in-the-blank.  And none of them, it seems, can regain their figures quickly enough after giving birth, like celebrities do. It is endless. Mothers need to seek less validation for their parenting decisions, to judge each other less, and to find more ways of forming genuine connections with other women who sincerely want to be their allies, not their “mompetitors.”

Mother-daughter book clubs are a way to sidestep some of these distractions and instead listen closely to other chosen mothers that you trust. They can provide a measured amount of communal upbringing that is sorely lacking in today’s world, and are a fantastic way of building community among mothers as well as daughters. Mother-daughter book clubs are not only a way for girls to find their inner voices, but for mothers to do the same.

Together, from one generation to the next, we can change the world—one girl at a time, one book at a time, one voice at a time.

Welcome to the village!

 

Recommended Books on Important Topics for Girls age 8+

Stereotypes and Sexism

  • Hannah, Divided – Adele Griffin Age – 8+
  • The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle – Avi Age – 10+


Sexualization (books that show girls who are not sexualized)

  • The Future of Us – Jay Asher and Carolyn Macker Age -12+
  • The Penderwicks (and sequels) – Jeanne Birdsall Age – 8+


Beauty and Body Image

  • Beauty Queens – Libba Bray Age – 12+
  • Real Beauty – Therese Kauchak Age – 8+


Girl Bullying/Allies

  • Stargirl – Jerry Spinelli Age – 12+
  • The Secret Language of Girls – Frances O’Roark Dowell Age – 8+


Healthy Relationships

  • A Northern Light – Jennifer Donnelly Age – 12+
  • Turtle in Paradise – Jennifer L. Holm Age – 8+


LGBTQ and Gender Nonconformance

  • Alanna – Tamora Pierce Age – 9+
  • Silhouette of a Sparrow – Molly Beth Griffin Age – 12+


Female Leadership

  • My Life with the Chimpanzees – Jane Goodall Age – 8+
  • The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate – Jacqueline Kelly Age – 9+


Girls and Women Around the World

  • The Breadwinner series – Deborah Ellis Age – 10+
  • Tua and the Elephant – RP Harris Age – 8+

 

Recommended Movies on Important Topics for Girls age 8+


Stereotypes and Sexism

  • Bend It Like Beckham – PG-13
  • Brave – PG


Sexualization

  • Little House on the Prairie Series – G
  • Memoirs of a Geisha – PG-13


Beauty and Body Image

  • Good Hair – NR
  • Hairspray: The Musical – PG


Girl Bullying

  • A League of Their Own – PG
  • Mean Girls – PG-13


Healthy Relationships

  • Ella Enchanted – PG
  • Speak – PG-13


LGBTQ and Gender Nonconformance

  • Tomboy –NR
  • Wish Me Away NR


Female Leadership

  • Miss Representation – NR
  • Whale Rider – PG-13


Girls and Women Around the World

  • Life, Above All – PG-13
  • Rabbit-Proof Fence – PG

 

Lori Day, M.Ed., Ed.S. is an educational psychologist, consultant and parenting coach with Lori Day Consulting in Newburyport, MA. She is the author of Her Next Chapter: How Mother-Daughter Book Clubs Can Help Girls Navigate Malicious Media, Risky Relationships, Girl Gossip, and So Much More. She also blogs for the Huffington Post and a variety of other sites on parenting, education, gender, pop culture and media. Day’s 22-year-old daughter, Charlotte Kugler, is a contributing author. She is a student at Mount Holyoke College, graduating on May 18, 2014.

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