Mother-daughter book clubs are a great way to encourage reading, bonding, and socializing among mothers, daughters, and their friends. But these clubs can do more than that, suggests educational psychologist and parenting coach Lori Day. They can create a safe and empowering haven where girls can freely discuss and navigate issues surrounding girlhood. In Her Next Chapter, Day draws from experiences in her own club and her expertise as an educator to offer a timely and inspiring take on mother-daughter book clubs. She provides overviews of eight of the biggest challenges facing girls today, such as negative body image, bullying, gender stereotypes, media sexualization, unhealthy relationships, and more, while weaving in carefully chosen book, movie, and media recommendations; thoughtful discussion questions; and group activities and outings that extend and enrich conversations and make clubs fun. Her Next Chapter outlines how mothers can use the magic of books to build girls’ confidence and sense of possibility as leaders, allies, and agents of change. A list of further resources and reflections and observations from Day’s now-adult daughter, Charlotte, round out this indispensible resource for anyone who cares about, teaches, or works with girls.
|Publisher:||Chicago Review Press, Incorporated|
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About the Author
Lori Day, M.Ed., is an educational psychologist, a consultant, and a parenting coach with Lori Day Consulting. She has worked in the field of education for more than 25 years and is a contributing blogger at the Huffington Post and several other websites, writing about parenting, education, gender, popular culture, and media. Charlotte Kugler, Day’s daughter, is a student at MountHolyokeCollege.
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Her Next Chapter
How Mother-Daughter Book Clubs Can Help Girls Navigate Malicious Media, Risky Relationships, Girl Gossip, and So Much More
By Lori Day, Charlotte Kugler
Chicago Review Press IncorporatedCopyright © 2014 Lori Day Charlotte Kugler
All rights reserved.
Why Form a Mother-Daughter Book Club?
* * *
"Together we came up with the plan of creating a small, supportive community — an extended family of committed mothers — in which mother-daughter connection was the norm."
— from The Mother-Daughter Project by SuEllen Hamkins and Renée Schultz
One day Charlotte and I were talking politics. I told her that I thought the world would be a better place if half of the political power in every country were in the hands of women, who comprise half of the human population. I don't know if this will ever come to pass, or if the effect would be as I imagine — especially given that we have female politicians with a variety of political leanings — but perhaps we'd have less war, better education for our children, better health care for everyone, a cleaner environment, and in America, for sure, less time spent discussing abortion and birth control instead of jobs and the economy. I told Charlotte that my greatest hope is that in my lifetime I will see more women ascend into leadership roles in government, business, media, and other male-dominated realms where their presence could be a game changer.
"That is why I want us to write this book, because —"
"Because we have to start with the children," finished Charlotte.
That we do.
After this exchange, I remembered a favorite quote from the movie Babe. As the narrator said, "little ideas that tickled and nagged and refused to go away should never be ignored, for in them lie the seeds of destiny." This conversation with Charlotte tickled and nagged, and helped us refine our ideas on what the book should be, why mothers should read it, and why we feel mothers and daughters will benefit from starting their own club. So why form a book club?
We Need Small Villages
Mother-daughter book clubs are not only a vehicle for sharing the enjoyment of reading, but they also act as small villages where women can collectively support girls and model healthy femininity for them. As a broader culture, we are failing at this. The best interests of children seem to often come last, behind the best interests of adults and corporations that can make money by selling products and services that reinforce gender stereotypes. As grownups, when we prioritize profit over children, we are robbing our youngest citizens of a healthy childhood in order to line our pockets. It is an act of economic and emotional vandalism. But it doesn't have to go down like this.
Mother-daughter book clubs provide girl-friendly smaller villages, and in some ways they are emotionally safer than school and sometimes even home. For only children like mine, they are a place where they can feel something akin to having sisters. For children with siblings, they are a place where they can feel special and enjoy time spent with their mothers. Most important, clubs can really be the small, intimate groups in which girls experience a measured amount of communal upbringing, something that is sorely absent in today's world.
Clubs Can Meet a Wide Range of Goals
If you talk to people who have been in mother-daughter book clubs or if you read about them, you will quickly see that there are many reasons for forming them, as well as for staying in them over time. Some examples of differing missions include:
* providing more challenging books for strong readers;
* providing additional practice for weaker readers;
* building strong emotional bonds with daughters;
* social opportunities for mothers;
* social opportunities for girls;
* addressing important aspects of family life, such as imparting religious values, reinforcing racial identity, or fostering an appreciation for art or music; and/or
* helping girls become more confident by providing a safe place for them to express their opinions and use their intelligence, apart from the environment of school where some girls dumb themselves down.
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. The goal is to raise girls to become confident young women in a culture that makes many girls and women feel insecure and powerless about their looks and abilities and future roles. With the tools you gain from this book, you will be able to instill in your daughters a greater sense of agency about their own lives, and this will lead to girls who are more resilient and more driven to reach their fullest potential.
But even with that specific mission, your club will be poised to accomplish other goals as well, as you come to define them. Once the meeting structure is in place, you can use it to enrich or empower the daughters of the club in whatever ways your own group determines are important. Clubs can and do evolve over time, and that is one of the beautiful things about them.
Clubs Help Moms and Girls Navigate the "Terrible Teens" and Other Clichés
When I was reading and researching in preparation for starting our own mother-daughter book club, and again as I worked on this book, I sometimes felt conflicted about the ways in which mother -daughter communication was discussed. Sure, it is very important and must be cultivated! But sometimes I felt that as the reader, I was presented with various euphemisms for girls and their behavior that were at best incomplete and at worst harmful clichés.
We have the moody, cantankerous "terrible teen," who drags her mother on terrifying roller coaster rides along with herself and all of her hormones. We have the "sullen tween," who stem-winds her mother by saying "nothing" when asked what she did at school that day, heading off to her bedroom with her smartphone and her itchy thumbs.
Of course there are girls like this, and mothers have battled or negotiated some version of these adolescent behaviors since time began. But there are many other kinds of preteens and teenagers, despite the fact that we often paint them all with the same brush. In fact, mother-daughter book clubs, if they are done well and started early, help prevent this kind of overhyped, door-slamming pod person from entering your house in the first place. Of course, there are no guarantees, and this book comes with no money-back offer. Mother-daughter book clubs are just a way of hedging your bet. I don't see these clubs as providing a flyover of some inevitable maelstrom so much as I see them as a way to create the kind of bonds that allow mothers and daughters to persevere through whatever developmental and relationship challenges await all of us as we grow older.
We spend a lot of time in our culture talking about strategies for dealing with the "turbulent teenage years," another favorite cliché. But the reality is that, these days, girls are ducking arrows on the frontlines of girl culture way before adolescence, and ten is the new fourteen in some respects. Even more interesting, and perhaps ultimately more significant, is that mothers have never been more vulnerable to their own media assault, which tells them they need to be hot from cradle to grave and must stay young and thin and beautiful (like their daughters, along with their daughters). Some mothers thus position themselves to be their daughters' peers, either due to their own conflicted feelings about aging or to the many books and movies that suggest that mothers and daughters should foremost be friends — even BFFs!
This is a big deal. Girls generally have multiple friends, but only one mother (or maybe two). Even for girls who do not have many or any friends, their mothers should not stand in as direct substitutes. The erosion of the line between girlhood and womanhood goes in both directions. While girls are racing to grow up as fast as possible, mothers, if they fall victim to the type of thinking the marketers count on, are racing in the other direction, toward their daughters and away from middle age. There is strategy behind the name of the popular clothing store Forever 21, which is patronized by both girls and women. I pull no punches when I say that mothers need to be mothers, first and foremost.
Communication between mothers and daughters has never been more complex or more crucial. Mothers in your club may not always agree — with each other or with the points made in this book — and that is OK, and great grist for conversation when it happens. Regardless of individual opinions on individual issues, the book and movie discussion skills taught here will benefit both daughters and mothers, and will help us stay close as females who are all dealing with some of the same unwholesome aspects of our current brand of femininity.
Both mothers and daughters can learn how to push back against some of these pressures. The most exciting and perhaps most transformative part of this process is that mothers and daughters do things within mother-daughter clubs that help them be things together as females, while still maintaining their separate roles. This happened to Charlotte and me, and it was joyous! She would be the first to tell you that we still butt heads a lot, but she has also told me that we have a depth to our adult relationship that seems unique, and I agree.
Clubs Help Mothers and Daughters See Each Other as Individuals
When Charlotte and I first started our club, we both knew the other four mothers and daughters fairly well. (This won't be the case for all clubs, but it was for ours.) Even so, I recall being pleasantly surprised by the way I got to know the other mothers and daughters so differently, and so much more intimately, within the context of our club over the years.
When we started the club, the girls were in third grade at the same elementary school. They played together. We mothers talked amongst ourselves while the girls played. We even socialized as couples and families. Yet through the lens of the club, I saw a different side of the other girls and moms. I even saw a different side of my own child, and she'd probably say the same about me.
I would characterize the mothers in our club as, on the whole, a mature, competent, and confident group of women. We all seemed to share the most important values that we hoped to pass down to our daughters. We all took our roles as mothers seriously, and viewed our roles as friends to our daughters secondarily. I think we each admitted to certain anxieties about raising girls — I know I did, often! — but together we seemed to know how to row in the same direction.
That said, we were still quite different people in a number of ways. I had one child, and the other mothers had two, two, four, and five children respectively. Over the years of our club, some of us worked outside the home while others didn't, and job circumstances changed from year to year for some of us. We had varying degrees of "craziness" in our lives in terms of how busy and stretched thin we were. We came from different religious and political backgrounds, although we were all Caucasian and middle -or upper-middle class. We had different personalities. While we didn't always agree, we usually tended to come to agreement, which was the important part. Creating and running a club brought out some of our differences because we had to make group decisions about the direction of the club — quite a different dynamic than chatting about the girls' latest math test while waiting to pick them up from school.
The girls always seemed more different than alike to me. Their friendships with each other were in flux at times. They all essentially got along, or we would not have come together for the club, but there were occasional social issues that developed (these will be discussed in greater detail in chapter 3).
In general, during the years of our club, regardless of our membership numbers, the girls each got so much time to speak — about the books, about school, and about their lives — that all of the mothers came to see each of them as wonderfully evolving individuals, not merely as the little girls they were during the early playdate years. Of course, part of this was that they were growing up! But much of it was that they were able to show us — and each other — who they really were as human beings within the comfortable haven of our club. Watching these girls find their voices as young women was extremely rewarding.
Clubs Are a Support Group for Moms
Although much of the focus of this book — and others on the same topic — is on what mother-daughter book clubs can do for girls, I can't stress enough how much these clubs can do for mothers as well. Some mothers will find the endeavor easy, while others may find it less so, at least initially. But everyone will gain the support from each other that they need. Raising kids today is hard, and raising girls comes with its own unique set of challenges for mothers. There were times I felt confident about how I was parenting Charlotte, 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.
Learning from other trusted and respected mothers is perhaps one of the least discussed but most important benefits to a mother -daughter book club, and here's why. In the twenty-five years I have worked with kids and parents, I have noticed a decline in the internal confidence mothers have about parenting. In my educational consulting practice, I am routinely involved with attentive parents who love their children deeply, but seem to seek my advice on everything — from the smallest decisions, such as what music classes to sign them up for, to the largest, such as how to help them stand up to bullies or how to get help for their teen's depression. That's fine, and that's my job. But what concerns me is how dependent upon "expert advice" too many mothers have become in recent years, as if they are birds that have suddenly lost their inner compass while migrating.
I have huge concerns about the parenting culture we now have, 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. The cycle is endless.
Back when mothers raised children in literal villages, without the Internet but with grandmothers and aunts and sisters and village elders to guide and support them, were they better able to develop confidence in themselves as parents who could eventually rely on their own methods? And is methods just another word for instincts and communal knowledge?
Contemporary society involves a huge peanut gallery of experts who make a living hawking self-help books (am I one of them?), bloggers blogging bloggerifically throughout the blogosphere on their parenting blogs (am I one of them?), marketers instilling insecurity in mothers in order to sell them expensive products and services which promise to solve the insecurities the companies themselves created (nope, I'm not one of them), and so forth. Many mothers are so busy debating which author or talk show psychologist gives the best parenting advice that they can't hear their own inner voices. There is just too much noise in the system. And there is too much money to be made by those fanning the flames of the Mommy Wars. Mothers need to seek less validation for their parenting decisions, judge each other less, and find more ways to form genuine connections with other women who sincerely want to be their allies, not their "mompetitors."
It's no wonder so many moms are adrift today, reaching out plaintively for help navigating a culture that is not always supportive of their parenting. There is always a place for parenting experts. If there weren't, I'd have a different career — and I really love the one I have. However, there is a balance to be struck between seeking expert advice and following your gut instincts as a mom. This book includes many interviews with experts — lots of my favorites! — and recommendations for parenting books. All of this information is valuable. The endgame, though, is for moms to rely on each other as well as popular experts and lesser-known people like me. So this book can be seen ironically as both a parent guide/self-help book and a book about developing greater personal and social resources so that parenting books won't be needed as much.
Excerpted from Her Next Chapter by Lori Day, Charlotte Kugler. Copyright © 2014 Lori Day Charlotte Kugler. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Author's Note xix
Part 1 Setting Up Your Club and Keeping It Strong
1 Why Form a Mother-Daughter Book Club? 3
2 Getting Started 14
3 Running Smoothly 32
Part 2 Let's Get the Dialogue Going
4 "What a Pretty Dress!" Helping Girls Transcend Gender Stereotypes and Sexism 45
5 The Sexualization of Girlhood: You Can Bypass It! 70
6 "Mommy, Do You Think I'm Fat?": Teaching Girls to Define Themselves from the Inside Out 94
7 Dealing with the "Mean Girls": How to Talk About Girl-on-Girl Bullying, and How to Raise Women to Be Allies 117
8 Keeping Girls Safe: Encouraging Healthy Relationships and Behavior 139
9 Supporting LGBTQ and Gender-Nonconforming Girls and Women: Encouraging Inclusive Book Clubs and an Inclusive World 166
10 Girls Are Leaders!: Laying the Foundation for Future Adult Female Leadership, One Girl at a Time 189
11 The Welfare of Girls and Women Around the World and Why That Matters to All of Us 217