Like Mother, Like Daughters?

I participate in a group called the Yahoo! Motherboard, which is a fantastic group of mom bloggers who contribute posts to Yahoo! each month on topics relating to parenting. This month, Yahoo! asked us about whether we, as moms, impose our own childhood dreams on our kids, and how we inspire them to have their own dreams. I thought I'd write about reading, and how I try to instill the same love of reading in my daughters that I had at their age, and still have today.

The first step is simply to surround them with books. Those piles of books all over my house – the mishmash of review copies, used book sale finds, and library books? Well, those piles exist in the girls' room too. Some of them are books I loved as a kid, some of them are series books I've inherited from parents of older kids, and some are books that the girls have picked out from the Scholastic catalog that comes home once a month. I try not to impose my taste on them; if there's a book that catches their fancy, I try to make it available to them even it doesn't look interesting to me. (I do draw the line on books about actresses on Disney teen sitcoms!) I keep a basket of books for each girl in a prominent spot in the house so that she can read when she comes home from school, and they help pick out the books that go in the baskets.

My reasoning is… they'll grow to love reading even more if they do it on their own terms. I never want reading to be a chore; I want it to be that same delicious escape for them that it is for me.

I also started a Mother-Daughter book club with 9 other girls and their moms. The book club has showed the girls that reading can be social and fun – they've relayed conversations to me that they've had about the monthly read on the playground with their fellow book club members – weeks before we're actually scheduled to meet. And the meetings themselves are fun, with activities and snacks to go along with the discussion.

Eloise I have also learned that the books that I loved may not necessarily be the books that they will love. We read my childhood fave Eloise last month, and frankly, my daughters were bored with it. It's a bit dated, and I think they just didn't get it.

Finally, I hope that the fact that I am always reading will inspire them as well. I tell them about the books I am reading and whether I like them or not, and we analyze the covers and figure out where on the bookshelves they will go once I am done. Teach by example, no?

So far, it looks as though I have succeeded – both girls enjoy reading (perhaps one more than the other… for now), and actively seek out books. One has expressed an interest in reading the Harry Potter books with me (which I haven't read yet), and I look forward to seeing how they will broaden my own reading horizons in the years ahead.

12 Comments

  • January 31, 2011 - 12:44 pm | Permalink

    I love it! I don’t have children, but if and when I do, I plant to encourage reading in similar ways. I love the idea of a mother-daughter book club. I’ve always loved reading, but what I love to read has changed so much over the years. I’m glad I had free reign as a child reader. I read (and loved) a lot of silly things, but I wouldn’t change a thing!

  • January 31, 2011 - 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Your house sounds like it looks like mine! We have books everywhere, always within easy reach. (I especially like your basket idea – will have to add that to the mix!). My girls are broadening my horizons too, especially now that my oldest (11) is on a constant search for new reading material.
    Great question by Yahoo!

  • January 31, 2011 - 4:41 pm | Permalink

    I assume you know about the Plaza’s Eloise Suite (http://www.theplaza.com/ scroll down).
    My daughter really likes Fancy Nancy.

  • February 1, 2011 - 12:05 am | Permalink

    @Nomadreader – glad that you read silly things as a kid and still ended up as the serious reader you are today!
    @Emily – yes, books everywhere. I love it!
    @ManoflaBook – will have to look into it!

  • February 1, 2011 - 7:16 am | Permalink

    It’s so funny when they start to develop their own tastes. I tried with my cousin and The LIttle House series and there wasn’t much interest there for her.

  • February 1, 2011 - 11:14 am | Permalink

    I know what you mean about our own favorites not always resonating with our kids. I LOVED “Harriet the Spy,” but my daughter found it a bit bewildering — the myriad references to the subculture of city life were simply too foreign to my little farm girl — and yet my niece, who is just the same age as my daughter, loves it. Also, while everything you are doing sounds wonderful, Gayle, keep in mind that YOU loved books as a child and probably your parents were not nearly as intentional about it as you are…so the book groups and baskets are great, but in my experience, most kids do love books as long as books are made available to them!

  • February 1, 2011 - 2:04 pm | Permalink

    I, too, am excited for this stage in Kate’s and my relationship. For now, she loves to snuggle up and read Brown Bear and Goodnight Moon. With Len and me as parents she doesn’t stand a chance as we are always reading something.

  • Kiki
    February 2, 2011 - 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Your advice is awesome! I’ve been so lucky that all three of my kids (and my step daughter, too) love reading! I think another really important thing for new parents to remember is that you can’t start reading early enough! I was holding my second baby and reading to my first one (they are 14 months apart)when they were still tiny, and they were always “reading” their board books in the car and in the bed. It was a tougher sell for my baby boy (the baby of the family), but he just finished the Harry Potter series (he just turned 10) and is on the lookout for the next great thing–and he’s quite the critic too! I love your “teach by example”, so true: show them you’re reading for enjoyment too! I love discussing the books I’m reading with my teenage daughters. The 14 year old just finished ‘The History of Love'(Krauss) and adored it! Thrilling! Once they get started, it’s pretty hard to hold them back!
    Great post, Gayle, thanks for sharing!

  • February 2, 2011 - 7:07 pm | Permalink

    I love this post, Gayle. Your house sounds so inviting and stimulating with all those piles and baskets and shelves of books everywhere.
    That’s so great that you started a Mother-Daughter book club! I love that the girls can’t wait to discuss the books. Must be a great way to connect with your children, beyond the day to day.
    I didn’t know you wrote for Yahoo Motherboard. You continue to amaze me!

  • February 3, 2011 - 1:07 pm | Permalink

    What better gift to give your children than the love of reading? I loved your post, and would like to offer my website as a resource for your mother-daughter book club. I post book reviews, author interviews, age-appropriate reading lists and mother-daughter book club ideas at http://motherdaughterbookclub.com. I’d love to have you visit and share ideas from your own book club.
    Also feel free to check out my guidebook called Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs. I talked to librarians, parenting experts and moms in clubs all over the country and shared my own experience in two clubs to come up with advice on starting a group and keeping it going for years.

  • February 3, 2011 - 8:31 pm | Permalink

    What a beautiful, inspiring post! I agree, the earlier you start reading — and having your children read to you, the better! I did so with both my daughter and son, and both are now wonderful writers in their own right. Kudos, Gayle!

  • February 5, 2011 - 7:21 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for all of the great comments! I really appreciate them. I love the great ideas and other resources you’ve offered here – I will definitely check them out.

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