How to Build Bridges with Books

Mother-daughter book clubs strengthen family relationships.


In “Kimchi & Calamari” by Rose Kent (HarperCollins, 2007), the 14-year-old protagonist Joseph Calderaro struggles to reconcile the Italian heritage of his adoptive family with his Korean ethnicity.

At a primarily mother-daughter book club led by Wilmette moms Jerrilyn Musachia and Julie Schrager, the book prompted a discussion of identity.

“It was interesting to hear [from the kids] what’s important to them—in these preteen years, they are figuring out what their identity is,” Schrager says. “[A book club] is a great way to get a gauge on how they’re feeling and thinking.”

Open Communication

North Shore mothers and book club experts say that mother-daughter book clubs can open lines of communication between moms and their ‘tween daughters—lines that moms hope will stay open through the rocky trail of adolescence.

Sometimes it’s easier to raise personal issues and discuss them objectively through the vehicle of a work of fiction—and this is particularly true for kids, explains Elise Barack of Highland Park, a trained book group leader with more than 20 years of experience.

“It gives kids a chance to think independently and see their parents as thinking people,” Barack says.

Make a connection

That was certainly the case for Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, 15, who learned her mom was raised by a single mother when her Rogers Park mother-daughter book club read “Because of Winn-Dixie” by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick, 2000). In this novel, a girl learns about her absent mother with the help of a dog.

But sometimes mother-daughter understanding doesn’t come easily. Musachia of the Wilmette book club says it became clear during a discussion of the book “Penny from Heaven” by Jennifer L. Holm (Random House, 2006), which is about a girl whose father dies, that her daughters don’t approve of her dating after being separated from their father for more than a year.

But even if you don’t achieve some great understanding, the clubs keep parents clued-in to what their children are reading and let mothers and daughters share and feed their literary passion.

And oftentimes the girls enjoy staying connected just as much as the moms do. As Steinkopf-Frank puts it: “It was a good way for a few of the girls in my class to really stay connected to ourselves and our moms.”