A mother and daughter reading in bed.

Tech & Media

The Absolute Magic of our Mother-Daughter Book Club

May 16, 2017

“Listen to this, Mum,” my daughter says, and proceeds to recite a paragraph from a book I’ve never read, about characters I don’t know, in a context I can’t understand. She laughs at the end of it, and then, without asking what I think of the passage or telling me what she thinks, she turns back to her book and continues reading.

That my little bookworm shares these snippets with me shows that my work to instill a love of reading in my children has paid off. But it wasn’t hard work, and it will never be done. Sharing books we love is something we started when my girls were infants, and will hopefully continue for as long as we do. In fact, it started even earlier than infanthood, as I lovingly built my first child’s library with books remaining from my own childhood, as well as those our friends and relatives sent as gifts.

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When my girls were very little, I read out loud to them every night, rediscovering books that had once been read out loud to me, and finding new favourites to read over, and over, and over again. Eventually, my daughters were able to read to me, and then they both turned into independent readers, which, like so many other attributes of rapidly growing people, was something that truly seemed to happen overnight. 

And soon after that came the giggling passages that I had to stop and listen to, and often, along with it, the counsel that, “Mum, you have to read this book. You’ll love it.”

When my girls recommend a book to me, they are handing me a golden rope, an easy way to tether our interests and understanding of one another.

Funny thing about the books my children choose to read: they’re nothing like the books I read at their age, or read now. My 11-year-old daughter loves fantasy: Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, The Hunger Games and Divergent series; anything with a strong protagonist and an alternate universe. My 9-year-old daughter is crazy for graphic novels and absurdist humour: Galactic Hot Dogs, Danger Is Everywhere, Kung Pow Chicken, Lumberjanes — titles way more sophisticated and silly than the Garfields of my childhood.

So when either of my daughters says I’ll love a book she is reading, I wonder what she sees in me that I don’t see in myself.

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It prompted us to begin a mother-daughter book club. It’s casual and on-going, and means that when one of my kids tells me I have to read something that they loved because I’ll love it too, I read it. And it means that they sit with me, nearly every night, and I read to them from a book I loved at their age; one that they would probably not have picked up unprompted.

So I have discovered a love for Raina Telgemeier, and my girls have discovered a love for Judy Blume. I have recommended Anne of Green Gables, so they can learn about a resilient girl in PEI, and they have recommended My Name Is Seepeetza, so I can learn about a resilient girl in a residential school. Our conversations about the books we share make mealtimes and bedtimes run long, and help contextualize things that are happening in society and in each other’s life.

As our kids get older, it can be tougher to stay connected to them. So when my girls recommend a book to me, they are handing me a golden rope, an easy way to tether our interests and understanding of one another. My job is only to not drop my end. 

I recently heard that one of my favourite authors, Richard B. Wright, had passed away. The news sent me straight to my bookshelf, to take stock of his titles in my library. Seeing them there, all together, was comforting. Adultery, October, A Life with Words … but where was Clara Callan? I scanned the shelf, looked above and below for my well-read copy and then remembered — that’s right, I had lent it to my mother to read because I just knew she would enjoy it, and I had been right: she had enjoyed it so much she had actually absconded with it.

Article Author Karen Green
Karen Green

Karen Green is a corporate and creative freelance writer specializing in parenting, culture and books. Her work has appeared in numerous digital and print publications, including Canadian Family, Today’s Parent, Bustle, Canadian Living and The Globe and Mail. She has written two very early readers books for Fisher-Price, and is the author of the popular parenting blog, The Kids Are Alright (on hiatus). A Toronto ex-pat, Karen now lives with her husband and two daughters in Chatham, Ontario, where she spends her free time doing quaint things like making jam.

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