This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, July 23, 1997

July 23, 1997 - Mother/Daughter Book Clubs

My daughter Maddy and her best friend, Andee, are 9 years old. They like to read, which certainly pleases me. Mostly, they like Nancy Drew stories.

Here I confess something I would never have admitted were it not for the courageous example of Phil, Andee’s dad. Yes, I have picked up the occasional Nancy Drew story myself.

There are several runs of Nancy Drew books. The Douglas Public Library has 249 titles, falling into the Nancy Drew Notebooks, the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, and the Nancy Drew Files. The originals were written by one Carolyn Keene. It was actually a pseudonym for Edward Stratemeyer, who also wrote the Hardy Boys. Later, Stratemeyer’s daughter took over. Later still the books were written by many different people.

And you know what? They’re not bad. What I like about Nancy Drew is that she’s so darn plucky. Although all the series have their own characteristics, one thing doesn’t change. Nancy is an explorer, a doer.

Frankly, there aren’t as many literary role models for girls as there ought to be.

My wife raised this issue a few months ago. Maddy was looking for more good books. But most of the “favorite books for young people” lists feature titles that are mainly about boys. I hope it will come as no surprise that girls prefer to read about main characters that are girls.

As Suzanne (my wife) got to digging around, she ran across other mothers of young girls who were looking for good girl’s books. And Suzanne began to hear about something else. As girls get older, they tend to talk more to each other than to their mothers. This happens just as their mothers find their daughter’s conversation more interesting than ever.

Aside from simply missing their daughters, many of these mothers also had both academic and psychological concerns. Several studies by the Association of University Women have shown that schools tend to encourage a habit of silence among girls, to discourage the sort of questioning and participative behavior that might label them as “brains.” Mary Pipher’s Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls talks about the need to give young girls a sense of belonging and challenge if they are to grow into healthy adults.

It all adds up to a daunting set of challenges for mothers and their daughters.

Well, here’s the best advice my wife ran across. Form a mother-daughter book club. A good place to start is The Mother-Daughter Book Club: How Ten Busy Mothers and Daughters Came Together to Talk, Laugh and Learn Through Their Love of Reading. Author Shireen Dodson shares her insights on how to get a club going, how to find and read books, how to structure and lead groups, how to maintain lively discussions, and more. The book is sprinkled through with solid lists of recommended books good for various ages.

It’s clear throughout Dodson’s wise and engaging book that she has enormous respect for the power of print. But even more important is the value of reading as a way to bridge the generation gap, as an opportunity to allow mothers and daughters to find their way to each other, to live within a dialogue that is about more than keeping a room clean.

This isn’t to suggest that only moms can help their daughters. Phil and I have been talking about forming another group, a Fathers Who Read Nancy Drew Support Group. Who’s with us?

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