Bonding With Your Stepkids: Book Club!

5 05 2010

Stepmothers often write me to ask what they can do to bond with their stepchildren. I usually recommend spending one-on-one time with your stepchildren doing things at least one of you enjoys! My stepchildren (15, 12, and 10, a boy and two girls) are all big readers and I often will read the books they are reading so we can discuss what we thought about the book. It’s been a fantastic way to create common ground for us.

I recently came across Cindy Hudson’s work and was thrilled because it helped me with even more ideas about what I could do with my stepdaughters. Cindy is the author of Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs. She is the founder of two long-running mother-daughter book clubs, and she lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and two daughters. Visit her online at and

I hope you enjoy Cindy’s guest post! And a big thank you to Cindy!

Mother-Daughter Book Clubs

by Cindy Hudson

During the last couple of years I’ve been lucky enough to talk to lots of moms in mother-daughter book clubs all over the country. Over and over I asked, “What are the benefits you see to being in a mother-daughter book club?” The reasons were as varied as the women who answered, but when I looked at all of them together, I began to see a pattern. Three overriding benefits emerged that served as an umbrella to all the others: These type of reading groups are great at providing a way for moms to stay closer to their daughters as they grow, they provide a connection to the broader community, and they encourage literacy. How do they do these things?

The simple act of reading together and talking about what you read is powerful. When you read with your daughter you let her know that spending time with her in a shared activity is important to you. You’re not driving her to an activity that you will watch; you’re not distracted while you talk on the phone or answer emails. You also get to talk about what you read. That may not sound like such a big deal, but the whole world opens up through books. You may start off talking about what happens to the characters in the story, but then you may get into important, related issues in your own lives. Over the years I’ve talked with my daughters about problems with friends, worries about school, questions about sex…all issues that may not have come up, or would have been awkward to address, without the entrée given us by the book we read.

Meeting with your group also lets you branch out and connect with other moms and daughters in your community. When my first group started nearly nine years ago, I didn’t know most of the moms and their daughters. But once our meetings got going we started trading parenting advice during dinner before our discussions. We talked about difficulties our kids were having in school and shared the names of pediatricians. We brought food when someone was sick, and we went away together for the weekend. We also got to know our daughter’s peers and watch them grow. Now it’s hard to imagine a time when we won’t be an important part of each other’s lives.

Finally, when you’re in a book club with your daughter you help her keep reading for fun. As kids grow older, many of them stop reading outside of school, because other activities crowd their lives. But reading for school doesn’t inspire the imagination the way reading for fun does. One is a chore, the other is recreation. My daughters and I always look forward to reading book club books, partly because we can imagine talking about them with others in our group when we get together. We have learned to appreciate genres that weren’t particularly our favorites, and we can recognize what others appreciate in a story that doesn’t resonate with us.

I believe being in a mother-daughter book club can have a positive effect on both you and your daughter in many more small ways you’ll probably never know. It’s hard to imagine making a better investment in your future relationship with your daughter than picking up a book to read together with a reading community you create.