From citywide reads to meet-ups on the couches of indie bookstores, book clubs are having a moment. Now is the time to take advantage of this cultural trend to nurture your relationship with your teen. Reading the same book as your son or daughter gives you the chance to connect over a shared experience, leads to conversations about serious topics, and gives you the chance to learn more about the thoughts, opinions, and experiences of your child. Sure, there might be some eye rolling when you pitch the idea, but there's a good chance your son or daughter wants a new way to connect with you, too. Here's how to get started:
- Form your group. Your book club can have as many or as few members as you want it to. Large groups, comprising your friends and their kids as well as your teen's friends and their moms (or dads!), can lead to lively, festive gatherings and discussions. But there are benefits to exclusivity, too. Just you and your teen are all you need to get a discussion going.
- Select your first book. Get your teen excited by involving her in the selection process. Focus on books that include characters she can relate to. YA novels or adult novels with a youthful angle, such as Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple, make excellent choices. Books with rich themes will inspire the best conversations, such as Jandy Nelson's current New York Times bestseller, I'll Give You the Sun, which deals with dreams and deceptions, life and death, family secrets and revelations, and love of all kinds — familial and romantic, gay and straight. The American Library Association publishes lists of recommended books every year, including a list of adult books that will appeal to teens, and one especially for reluctant readers.
- Prepare for your discussion. Your book may include discussion questions on the back pages or on the publisher's website, but coming up with topics on your own is part of the fun. Bookmark short excerpts that strike you as especially moving, funny, or thought provoking, and use them as jumping-off points for the ideas you want to explore together.
- Finally, set the mood! This isn't school — your teen has enough of that in his life — so make sure you don't make it feel that way. If your group is small, hold your discussion outside or in a cafe. If you want to go all out, make or buy food that appears in the book to immerse yourselves in the story's world. Most importantly, have fun together!