I’m excited to have this opportunity to share an interview with Cindy Hudson, the author of Book by Book. She visits Writer’s Round-About today on her blog tour so feel free to leave a comment asking any questions you may have while she is here.
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experiences and insights today, Cindy. First, let me congratulate you on the publication of “Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs” by Seal Press last October. The book looks fantastic and, as a mother with a daughter who loves to read, it’s exciting to think about how we can share our mutual passion. I imagine a mother-daughter book club is also a great way to meet other families and build a community spirit of support, language, and literacy.
ON BOOK CLUBS
Your book shares fantastic how-to tips for mothers starting their own mother-daughter book club. What exactly IS a mother-daughter book club and how is it different from other kinds of book clubs?
Mother-daughter book clubs are made up of moms and daughters who read together with other mother-daughter pairs. They get together every month or so for a social gathering to talk about what they read, eat snacks or a meal and maybe play games or make crafts. They are lots of fun in many ways. These reading groups differ from those with members who are only adults or only kids in that they encourage inter-generational communication. This usually means you get great discussions that help you see each other as people, not just parent and child.
You founded two long-running, successful mother-daughter book clubs; what inspired you to start them?
I started my book clubs when each of my daughters was nine years old. It seemed a good way to counter the image being created among some of their friends at school that reading wasn’t cool anymore. I was horrified to think that my girls, who loved to read, would stop reading for fun. Starting the book club helped us find like-minded girls and their moms who believed that reading was cool.
In the synopsis of Book by Book, the final sentence says, “… Book by Book is a great resource for helping moms and daughters form new memories and traditions.” I’m sure you developed many new memories with your own daughters, which one do you remember most fondly?
Over the 10 years I’ve been in my clubs I have so many great memories that it’s hard to choose just one. I believe the best memory though for each girl would have to be the beach weekend we went on with our group. I did this with each of my daughters, and it was a great combination of time just for the two of us to drive together for a couple of hours, then spend two days with the group cooking, eating, laughing, playing games and having fun on the shore.
My daughter loves to write stories (just like me) so discussing books we’ve both read has given me opportunities to share what I know about how to write a well-built story. What sorts of things do you talk about when discussing the books after reading?
It’s maybe not surprising that the life situations written about are front and center during our discussions. The characters we read about have issues to solve with their friends, with their parents, and with other adults. They are usually figuring out what kind of person they are going to be, and what’s important to them. They are often also learning how to communicate. Some are finding out how to deal with loss. It’s so valuable for a girl to get her mom’s perspectives on these issues, and also for a mom to know how her daughter sees them. It’s maybe just as valuable for girls to see how other moms think, and for moms to hear what their daughters’ peers have to say.
As a writer-mother, sharing reading with your daughters is one half of a literary partnership, do/did you ever share the other half, writing, with them? How do you involve your family in that side of your love of language?
That’s a great question. I will sometimes read an essay I’m writing aloud to my daughters and see how it hits them. And if there’s a piece written by someone in my writer’s group that I think will resonate with them I read that as well. At my prompting, my own mom started writing stories about her life a few years ago, which is really exciting for me. She lives in Louisiana, while we’re in Oregon, and when she comes to visit she usually brings new stories to read out loud to all of us. Not only has this been a great way for my girls to learn more about their grandmother and her life, it’s given them a chance to see the power that story has for each of us. And they also see that the power in story has value whether it’s printed in a publication or simply read out loud at a gathering.
Our family plays such an important role in the success of our writing career. What do you feel is their greatest contribution to your own success?
They respect the time I spend writing. Over the years I’ve taken classes and workshops that have taken me away from home, and I’ve felt nothing but support from my daughters and my husband even though that means more work for each of them while I’m gone. It’s been great for me to know I could work to improve my craft without feeling guilty about leaving my family to do it.
Some kids are more resistant to reading than others. What tips do you have to foster a love of reading in our children and keep them motivated to participate in the book club?
Most important I think is to make sure it’s fun. If reading feels too much like homework, kids won’t want to do it. Also, book clubs can be motivating to get kids to read something they may not normally pick up just so they’ll be ready to talk about it when they get together at a meeting. You can even add other activities that will enhance the reading, like cooking a recipe that goes along with something in the book or planning your meeting around the theme of the book.
Illiteracy is still very common, even in countries where literacy is a staple cornerstone of public education. What advice do you have for parents who have trouble reading?
Parents who are not strong readers may be reluctant to read with their child. But reading together can help them both to improve their literacy skills, so in some ways it’s even more important that these parents do consider being in book groups. It’s easier if you start when your daughter is younger, because you can select beginning reader books.The two of you may even want a book club of two until you feel confident enough to include others. Librarians are great at making recommendations for books that are tailored to reading ability.
Getting started young is one of the best ways to encourage a love of language. My six-year-old son is significantly dyslexic and despite reading to him even before he was born, and having a mother and sister passionate about language, he tends to avoid words. It has been difficult to inspire him to enjoy reading when learning to read has been such a challenge. How do you handle disabilities like dyslexia in a book club?
I haven’t had to address that specifically in either of my book groups, but I know that some of our members feel more comfortable listening to audio tapes of the books. That way they can participate in discussions even if reading is a challenge for them. It may be helpful to have a print copy and an audiotape of the book if that’s possible, so struggling readers can follow along with the words they are hearing. Or if you have two copies of the book, you can read out loud, stopping when necessary, while your daughter (or son) follows along in her own copy. Reading graphic novels, with their visual cues for the written words may be helpful too. We’re fortunate at this time that many talented writers are turning to graphic novels as a new way to tell their stories, so there are lots of great titles to choose from.
Don’t forget to get your entries in today for a chance to win a copy of Cindy’s “Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs“. Get your family involved and passionate about reading and writing. It’s a easy, inexpensive, and rewarding hobby for the whole family.
Finally, a mother-daughter book club is a fantastic way to bond with our daughters but I know my son would want to be involved too. Does your book share ideas for including other family members?
While the focus of my book really is on mothers and daughters, the ideas I have for these type of book groups can be extended easily to create a family group or a mixed group of boys and girls. I’ve heard from other clubs that they successfully include younger siblings, both brothers and sisters, in their book meetings. As your kids get older though, they may be less willing to discuss sensitive issues like sex and body changes in the company of the opposite sex. Open discussion is really what you’re aiming for, so if you sense this is happening, you could restructure then.
Thank you again for your time, Cindy. I wish you fantastic success with this book and appreciate your contribution to encouraging our children to read. My personal experience with dyslexia (since my mother and I are both dyslexic, not just my son) has made me very aware of how important learning to read is for creating a successful future. I want that for my children. Thank you for writing a book that helps bring a love of language into our home.