Starting a New Chapter

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My mind is still humming from the spirited discussion at my last book club meeting. The conversation was everything I could have hoped for — intriguing, surprising, and most of all, fun. But we passed up Chardonnay and brie in favor of chocolate chip cookies and milk — more appropriate fare for the junior members of our Mother/Daughter Book Club.

My friend Ellen and I created the club after reminiscing over coffee about the "read aloud'" days we once shared with our children. My daughter Julia is now a third-grader who loves to read independently, but I missed the conversations we had when she was younger about books such as WINNIE-THE-POOH by A. A. Milne and THE DOLL PEOPLE by Ann Martin. Ellen's experience with her daughter Sarah mirrored mine, and the club was born.

Julia immediately embraced the idea. "Can we pick THE PENDERWICKS as our first book?" she asked. "I can make some of Skye's burnt chocolate cookies for the meeting." (THE PENDERWICKS is the story of four sisters and their summer adventures. In it, one sister, Skye, incinerates a batch of chocolate chip cookies.)

Two months before our first meeting, Julia and Sarah crafted invitations detailing the date, time, meeting place and book choice. We planned several book-related activities — decorating gingerbread men (a PENDERWICKS character's favorite treat), creating bookmarks, and a word-search game with names from the book. Julia concocted her own version of Skye's "burnt" cookies by mixing various food colors into the dough until it looked black. We'd wrap up the meeting with a brief PENDERWICKS discussion.

I was nervous — okay, terrified — about that last item. I worried that the girls would get bored, or worse, refuse to participate. But one of my favorite things about kids is how they always surprise me — and the discussion turned out to be the highlight of the meeting.

Picture a circle of young girls raising their hands and blurting out things like — "I loved that part!" "I'm like the sister, Jane." "I'm like Skye!" "I wish the author hadn't put in the scary part about the bull." — and on and on. We mothers beamed at our empowered daughters.

At the end of the session, the girls voted on the next book they wanted to read. FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER won, and this time around, I can't wait for the discussion.

What's the best way to teach kids to love books? Click the comments link below to find and share solutions.

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