Autodidacts Creating Culture

Girls’ Book Club: Get your Daughter Reading & Talking about Great Literature, Effortlessly

Unlike a flock of noisy geese, a gaggle of girls, ages eleven to fourteen, met at my house for Girls’ Book Club last year.

 –Sharing an adaptable format.  

It was helpful that when I sent out an advance inquiry about the activity, I made my expectations about behavior clear.

Participants needed to give feedback, to listen, to respond thoughtfully, and respect other people’s opinions.  But once they were there, the atmosphere was by no means austere.  Like a glacier river, our best sessions flowed.  

At our first meeting, I reinforced the need for everyone to feel free to share their perspective. We held the meetings in my living room comfortably seated in a circle.  

We followed a similar framework for each meeting.  Each person took a turn picking a book from a predetermined list that. 

The person whose turn it was to lead the class brought:  information about the author; two open-ended questions about the book to begin the discussion; an activity; and a snack and drink.  The other girls also brought two questions to share.  

The girls determined that only people who raised their hands could share their response.  Sometimes it got rowdy and people spoke out of turn because they were so excited.  It wasn’t a bad problem to have.

We had no trouble spending an hour discussing the book and one hour doing the activity.  Sometimes we ran out of time.

As a facilitator, I kept the group on track with the topic at hand.  I assisted with the preparations for the snack and the activity.  It was a carefree role and fun.

I also helped the leader decide what her activity would be.  Through phone conversations or email, she and I sorted out what she wanted to do and the supplies we’d need.  Our exchange helped her explain her  activity clearly to the girls later.  

The girl in the photo above selected Pride and Prejudice and served helpings of layered cake and tea at the end of the meeting.

 Of course we didn’t need food, but it made our time together more social and fun.  Sometimes the food related to the book.  We made sushi for the novel, Heart of the Samurai.

In between things, they obsessed with their iPhone Apps.

It took a considerable amount of time to build a sizable book list.  

I  can’t stress enough how important it is to carefully construct the book list.  

In fact, I lost two participants because the book selections didn’t appeal to their sensitivities, an unfortunate loss.

We had girls with different ages, reading interests, and reading abilities which is why read or listening to the story was optional.  

My list included fiction, non-fiction, and science fiction selections to meet their needs.  

I requested parental involvement for our book list.  I asked the girls to suggest books too, but that didn’t mean that I included them.  

‘Criteria’ was met in order for a book to make the list.   I wanted the girls to read ‘good literature,’ as demonstrated by awards or stellar reviews.  

We needed books with ‘meat’ in them; interesting content to talk about; ones which contained great examples of all the elements that make a great story like character, theme, plot, setting, etc.  

Common Sense Media was my reference to check the books submitted.  Another place for book reviews was in the comment section about a book at Amazon.  

Our book club wasn’t perfect.  Truly, some of the books we read were odd and age-inappropriate.

I made the mistake of including a book I liked from memory, 1984.  Once I began reading it (yeah, I read every book too), I realized that it was obviously too conceptually advanced and morose for our age group, but we managed to have an interesting discussion about it.

We addressed the violence, the politics, the psychology of the characters and the author in 1984.  We laughed at the awkwardness of a Barn Owl having sex with its caretaker’s (a woman’s arm) in Wesley the Owl.  And during moments when I’d point out sexual innuendos in a silly way, we’d burst with laughter.  

Overall, our group discussions were insightful, lively and fun.

My visual book list at Pinterest enabled the girls to see the cover of the books and read a detailed description about it.  If they clicked on a link, they could even buy it.

I joined Pinterest to share reading choices for our Girls’ Book Club.

Unfortunately, it’s a pity that our Girls’ Book Club isn’t happening this year.  It ended because three of the gals in our group decided to attend high school and I couldn’t find three more girls to replace them.  

Ideally a book group suits eight people, no less than six.  We were down to three, sadly.

That year, our daughter, who was eleven at the time, read and analyzed more literature in a way she found effortless and engaging, than our sixteen year-old son, a sophomore in high school!  



(Go to my Pinterest link above for more info., like the authors’ names.)

Pride and Prejudice, embroidered napkins, ate layered cake and drank tea.

Heart of the Samurai, made and ate sushi.

1984, clipped words from a newspaper to make concrete poetry or  ‘newspeak.’ 

The Grimm Legacy, used a 2D model (a mother constructed for every girl) of a room and the girls used magazine clippings to make their own library of magical objects.

Shooting Kabul, went to lunch in Fremont, CA (where part of the story  took place) to eat a restaurant called Little Kabul & met a woman from Afghanistan, who shared how/why her family left that country, and went to a market and bought a few Afghan foods.

Wesley the Owl, made a pine cone owl on a stick outdoors.

A Tale Dark and Grimm, re-enacted scenes from the book in theatrical play

Black Beauty, Made a Mad Lib story and reenacted it as a horse.

Number the Stars, made fairytale houses due to a reference in the book about fairy tales.


4 Responses to “Girls’ Book Club: Get your Daughter Reading & Talking about Great Literature, Effortlessly”

  1. stefani

    Yes, Kristin, book clubs are a great way to get content and peer connection all at once. I have no doubt that you were a very effective facilitator.

  2. patricia

    Book clubs are so great. I especially like how you incorporated an activity into yours. The activities that the girls came up with seem really fun. I would love to do them myself!

    • Kristin

      Hi Patricia,

      I have a few thoughts in response to your comment:

      “I especially like how you incorporated an activity into yours.”

      Although the girls clearly enjoyed the discussion, I think the activity provided them with a kinesthetic mode for learning. They continued analyzing elements from the book even during the activity.

      I would have continued having book club members determine an activity with high school kids as well, in order to meet the needs and interests of different learners.

      It’s a shame to me when formal learning replaces ‘fun stuff,’ after Kindergarten.


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