How Mother Daughter Book Clubs Help Raise Confident, Strong Girls

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Lori Day didn’t have to sell me on her new book, Her Next Chapter: How Mother Daughter Book Clubs Can Help Girls Navigate Malicious Media, Risky Relationships, Girl Gossip, and So Much Morewhich she wrote with her daughter, Charlotte Kugler. I knew it was going to be helpful to my parenting and couldn’t wait to read her advice!

Mother Daughter Book Clubs

So, just to catch you up on my background . . . I have started two mother-daughter book clubs before. However, I haven’t used them with the purpose to focus on girl issues specifically. Both book clubs were specifically to help reluctant readers and to socialize.

How Mother Daughter Book Clubs Help Raise Confident, Strong Girls

Mother Daughter Book Clubs

After reading Lori’s book, I am convinced that having a strong purpose of addressing issues like Lori suggests, could be a great way to support girls as they journey through the tough tween and teen years.

Lori shows how we can use books, movies and other media to prompt discussion and critical thinking. She gives background for each topic, book suggestions, discussion questions, fun activities, other media suggestions, why the topic matters, as well as advice.

The topics Lori suggests are: gender stereotypes, the sexualization of girlhood, teaching girls to define themselves from the inside out, dealing with “mean girls,” encouraging healthy relationships and behavior, encouraging inclusiveness, laying a foundation for female leadership, and developing concern for the welfare of women around the world.

Smurfette Principal

One thing Lori taught me in this book that I hadn’t known was “the Smurfette Principal.” This is when you have a cast of characters (like the Smurfs) that is skewed heavily male with only one token female who is usually stereotyped. Remember all those smurfs? All male and they got names like Brainy, Grouchy, Doctor, . . . and there was the one female named Smurfette. Lori recommends that you use this principal or the Bechdel Test to evaluate how you choose books and movies. The Bechdel Test takes it a bit further and asks you to question if the female characters talk, if they have names, and if they talk about something other than men.

Isn’t this soooo important and quite frankly, sad because there’s so much gender bias out there!

I can think of so many kid shows and toys that FAIL these tests: The Muppets, LEGOs, the Avengers, Star Wars (until recently), Winnie-the-Pooh, just to name a few.

The Sexualization of Girlhood

There is so much in this section about the real consequences of this early sexualization of girls such as body hatred, eating disorders, vulnerability to sexual harassment and assault, relationship problems with boys and men, low self-esteem.

She says that we need to show our kids how to say no to this, model healthy femininity and communicate with your daughter about your family’s values. Some tips she suggests are to question everything, provide healthy alternatives, set limits, and reduce media consumption.

One of Lori’s suggestions for this category is to watch any episode of Toddlers and Tiaras. She writes, “I can’t think of any other television show or movie that demonstrates the sexualization of girlhood better than Toddlers & Tiaras.” She the provides open-ended discussion questions for the group to use in response.

Books she suggests for your book club to read are: Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Matilda by Roald Dahl, The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies, The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall.

Why I Recommend Her Next Chapter

Lori is a skilled writer and psychologist. Her advice and insights are spot-on without being pedantic or prescriptive. I found the organization of the book as well as all the recommendations to be very useful and thought-provoking.

I believe anyone who has a daughter will find this book useful, even dads. I highly recommend Her Next Chapter as a must-read parenting book.

Get Girl Empowerment Resources

Lori’s website has a ton of resources for girl empowerment, movies, books, and more.

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  1. I’ve talked about this concept before with a couple of other moms, but haven’t gotten anything moving. Perhaps this book will be the catalyst! Thanks so much for the review and the message, Melissa.

  2. My daughter and I had a tradition that we called Books & Beverages at our local Starbucks (with caffeine-free beverages for her, when she was younger.) She’s 20 now, and we still enjoy reading a book together and talking it over. This is a great tradition to start at any age.

  3. Now that my daughter is a teen, I wonder if she’d be open to something like this…I’m thinking not, but you never know! Might be worth reading the book in any case, it does sound interesting. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. Thanks so much for this. As the mom of a little girl I am constantly thinking about these issues. I also apply the Smurfette Principle to diversity issues. Good books are hard to find!

    Thanks again and I’ll be passing this along to my girlfriends with daughters.