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Suzanne Tobias: Family book club could start – or continue – meaningful dialogue with kids

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, May 18, 2013, at 5:29 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, at 2:53 p.m.

Books to consider

Any great book club discussion begins with a great book. Here are some popular middle-grade works to consider:

• “The Outsiders,” S.E. Hinton

• “Love That Dog,” Sharon Creech

• “The Giver,” Lois Lowry

• “Wonder,” R.J. Palacio

• “The Misfits,” James Howe

• “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane,” Kate DiCamillo

• “The Higher Power of Lucky,” Susan Patron

• “Moon Over Manifest,” Clare Vanderpool

• “The Graveyard Book,” Neil Gaiman

• “Liar & Spy,” Rebecca Stead

• “Bridge to Terabithia,” Katherine Paterson

• “Holes,” Louis Sachar

• “Hoot,” Carl Hiaasen

• “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” Roald Dahl

• “Eggs,” Jerry Spinelli

• “Bud, Not Buddy,” Christopher Paul Curtis

• “The Chronicles of Narnia,” C.S. Lewis

• “Al Capone Does My Shirts,” Gennifer Choldenko

• “The Little Prince,” Antoine de Saint-Exupery

• “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Harper Lee

• “The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate,” Jacqueline Kelly

• “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon,” Grace Lin

• “The Diary of a Young Girl,” Anne Frank

• “The Green Glass Sea,” Ellen Klages

• “Dandelion Wine,” Ray Bradbury

And here are some books with more mature themes to consider for your older teens:

• “The Book Thief,” Markus Zusak

• “The Hunger Games,” Suzanne Collins

• “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” Stephen Chbosky

• “Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie,” David Lubar

• “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” Mark Haddon

• “Speak,” Laurie Halse Anderson

• “Watership Down,” Richard Adams

• “Native Son,” Richard Wright

• “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” Sherman Alexie

• “The Catcher in the Rye,” J.D. Salinger

• “Crank,” Ellen Hopkins

• “Thirteen Reasons Why,” Jay Asher

• “The Fault in Our Stars,” John Green

• “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” Rebecca Skloot

• “Feed,” M.T. Anderson

• “Uglies,” Scott Westerfeld

• “The Kite Runner,” Khaled Hosseini

I was in my late 20s, married but childless, when I first read Lois Lowry’s “The Giver.”

Intrigued by the Newbery Medal on the cover, its dystopian theme and the chatter in some circles that its subject matter was “inappropriate for young children” – high praise, in my book – I bought a copy one Saturday morning and read it straight through that afternoon.

Afterward I remember thinking – oddly, because I wasn’t the type to dream about children or to envision my life as a mom – that I couldn’t wait to someday share that book with my kids.

Then I kind of forgot about it.

Now my son, Jack, is 12, the same age as Jonas, the novel’s main character, and he mentioned recently that he’d like to read “The Giver.”

Some of his friends have read it and liked it, he said.

“When I’m done with this ‘Fablehaven,’ ” he told me, holding up the fifth book in that series, “it’s next on my list.”

Oh, good! I thought. What a perfect excuse to read it again.

My daughter, meanwhile, is wrapping up her freshman year in high school and is booked solid with required reading for school but tells me she’s looking forward to summer break so she can read what she wants. On her short list: “The Fault in Our Stars” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”

Turns out, I’d like to read those as well.

So here we are: This could be the perfect time to start a Family Book Club.

The last book my children and I read together was the last one I read aloud to them at bedtime: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”

I’m ashamed to say that once they started reading more independently, we pretty much went our separate ways where books are concerned. That’s OK – I’m not keen on the science fiction or mythological books that Jack chooses – but I miss the bonds that come from knowing the same characters, dissecting the same plots, connecting a book to our daily lives.

They get those experiences at school, as I do at my occasional book club, but never together. And now that my children are older and growing into their smart, funny, soulful, individual selves, I rather appreciate their perspective and insight.

Family book clubs can be as formal or informal as you want them to be. Some experts suggest including a few families with kids the same ages and meeting at one house at a specified time. Others suggest planning outings or menus to reflect the book’s theme: a tea party for “Alice in Wonderland,” for instance.

I envision something far less rigid but no less meaningful: reading the same book at the same time (yes, that means multiple copies) and talking about it afterward – over dinner, in the car, at the pool, on vacation.

Making summer reading a shared experience, like a movie, concert or trip to an art museum, seems a worthwhile goal.

I think we’ll start with “The Giver.”

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SuzanneTobias.

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