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

05/18/2013 5:28 PM

08/06/2014 1:38 AM

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.”

About Suzanne Tobias

Suzanne writes about family life on Thursdays. She has covered local news for The Eagle since 1990. Suzanne is a native of North Carolina and earned an English degree from North Carolina State University.

Find her on Twitter: @suzannetobias

Contact Suzanne at 316-268-6567 or by emailing her at

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