Mom/Daughter Book Club Takes a Charitable Turn

Sheri Reed

Clover Twig and the Magical Cottage book
$16.99; Macmillan
Lisa Novick, Co-Founder of YesKidzCan!, guest posts with us today a first-hand account of how her mom/daughter book club turned into both a fun reading- and fun charity-focused activity.

Mommy/Daughter Book Club Takes a Turn for the Adding a Community Service Storyline

By Lisa Novick, Co-Founder of YesKidzCan!, a do-good company that brings "giving experiences" into young kids' lives.

Fourth grade girls can be a tricky bunch. It's hard to know if they feel "too cool" to hang out with mom or if they really want together time. So when a friend of mine called to say that her daughter wanted to start a mommy/daughter book club, I secretly cheered, taking this as a sign that the together time still had the upper hand.  

Soon thereafter, we had ten fourth graders and their moms ready to start. Our hopes for the club were to create a fun environment that encouraged reading, self expression, friendship, and mommy/daughter bonding. We were not expecting our book club to take an interesting turn...for the good. We knew that everyone was busy, so our emphasis was to make the book club fun and easy.  Here's how:

  • We would meet every six weeks on a weekend afternoon,
  • Hosting and facilitation responsibilities would rotate,
  • Books would be a manageable length, and
  • Only simple snacks would be served. No meals!  

My daughter and I hosted the first book club.  We were ready to discuss Camille McPhee Fell under the Bus by Kristen Tracy, and then I had an idea. Why not add a charitable-giving component by having the girls bring books to donate? To help organize the donation piece, we used a community service how-to kit on book donation (The Book Exchange Act of Kindness Kit). We asked the kids to bring at least three gently used books. Two should be age-appropriate for their friends. They would find out why on club day.

Ten girls and moms arrived with Camille McPhee in one hand and a bag of books for donation in the other -- lots of books! The girls put one age-appropriate book in a bag marked "Book Exchange" and the other in a bag labeled "Mystery." Remaining books went into the "Donation" box. (This was in preparation for a surprise group game.) The book conversation was remarkable. I anticipated that the girls would speed through their analysis so they could play. But they were completely dedicated to the discussion. We could have ended there with great satisfaction. But the service activity was about to begin.

While we wanted the service project to be as fun as the book discussion, we talked briefly about the value of donating books. Underprivileged children could get books through groups such as Books for Africa). Books could go to organizations that resell them to support their cause (such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness). And local schools and libraries often needed books to fill their shelves. Then, we counted the books the girls brought. One hundred in all!

To applaud their efforts, we revealed our next activity: a "book exchange" game. We dumped out the bag marked "Book Exchange" so the books could be seen. Each girl could pick a book from the pile to keep for herself. Or, if she didn't like those options, she could pick a surprise selection from the "Mystery" bag.  As a final part of the day, the girls made bookmarks and book plates to include with their donation to make it even more special. (All the background information and instructions were from the how-to kit.) 

What did the girls think of the experience? Laura got to the heart of the matter. She said, "I was glad to give things to give to less fortunate people." Kylee added, "We could have made bookmarks for ourselves, but it was nice to make them for others." Suraya made an equally important point, "I just had fun doing it!" As parents, we can get caught up in emphasizing the moral of the story rather than letting the enjoyment of the experience bring the message home. The girls had fun with each other. They were excited about the next club meeting. Oh, and yes, they got the part about helping others. I don't think we could have hoped for a nicer ending.     


Six weeks later, another mom and daughter hosted our second meeting. The book they selected was Clover Twig and the Magical Cottage by Kaye Umansky. They decided that they, too, wanted to include a community service activity! The kids decorated pillowcases to send to wounded soldiers recovering in military hospitals. Would the kids enjoy the second service project equally? (Sequels are often disappointing!) Elliotte shared everyone's view, "This was so cool!" I for one can't wait to see how the story plays out at the next book club meeting!

Is your child in a book club of any sort?

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