When Your First Grader Wants to Join the Book Club

I had a friend ask the other day for book recommendations for a Mommy-Daughter book club, but with a twist—her daughter is an advanced reader, but 8 years old.

This was a conundrum. How do you pick a book that is age-appropriate for an 8-year-old, without being mind-numbing for an adult to read along with their daughter? My own LittleLitzy has the same problem at 10—she reads at a higher comprehension level than her older brothers, but at 10 isn’t quite ready for Wifey.

My co-workers and I brainstormed for a bit—Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, The Boxcar Children, Ramona Quimby … but it always circled around to this: Could you effectively pull off a book club with 1st and 2nd graders, without you being bored with the book choice and the girls not having a long enough attention span to really discuss a book at length? (“Really? I think Jessie Alden has OCD. And Henry needs to get.over.HIMSELF.”)

I do think there are several books, that at a young age, may be worthy of an attempt:

Little Women The kiddos could read the “Classic Starts” version, as you read along with the original edition. (Bonus? You can watch the Winona Ryder/Christian Bale movie treatment on club night—Ryder is a little over the top, but Bale? Rowr!)

A Wrinkle in Time (My favorite book as a child, and great themes—parental abandonment, the power of faith and our untapped potential to tesseract!)

Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great (Blume rocks. End of story.)

The Ivy and Bean series (Annie Barrows is great, and it wasn’t around in the 70s, meaning it’s possible you haven’t read it already.)

The Clarice Bean series (I love that she gets her panties in a knot over which part she plays in “The Sound of Music.” Also? A nice transition from “Charlie and Lola” books.)

Still bored to tears? Stop beating yourself up—there are ways around book clubbing it with your youngster. The best solution is to help your daughter organize a book club of her own. Here are a few suggestions:

Arrange a meeting time in conjunction with your book club meeting. The pros? Your daughter gets to see you engage with your peers, setting the stage for understanding that mommy is more than just the person who makes your mac ‘n cheese and washes your underwear. The cons? Your meeting may be interrupted repeatedly, but let’s be real—after the first 15 minutes, chances are you’re done discussing the book and have moved on to the latest episode of “The Amazing Race.”

Help your daughter pick a book, but consider talking to her friends’ mothers as well. You want to make sure everyone is on the same page about the content. No one needs to have the fight about banned books just yet.

Help your daughter come up with several questions to initiate conversation about the book. If you’re familiar with the material, it’s easier, but if not, you can always talk to your daughter’s teacher or the local library. Or just Wiki it!

Consider a time limit. Your book club meetings may run two hours, but chances are 8- and 9-year-olds won’t be able to stretch a conversation that long. I’d start with half-an-hour for book discussion, and half-an-hour for snack and selection of the next book.

Think about book swaps, or book donation projects. Here’s your chance to expand an educational activity into a philanthropic one at the same time. If you’re looking for a way to kick off a book club for the younger set and don’t know where to start, consider a simple book swap. The girls can pick from a pile a title they haven’t yet read, and then share with others at a future meeting. Or, books no longer in use—those titles your daughter now considers “babyish”—can be collected by the girls and delivered to a local nonprofit in need.

There’s no such thing as “too soon” for a book club—your daughter will learn more than just the ins and outs of a book. She’ll cultivate a love of reading, learn how to debate a point effectively, accept viewpoints other than her own as valid opinion, increase her reading comprehension and remain engaged in an activity that is critical to her future success.

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