Reading is more than just reading a book and moving on to the next one. True readers, people who love the written word and stores, incorporate them into their lives. One way to model for kids the expansive reading experience is with a family book group and what better time than summer?
One of my favorite summer reads as a child was Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I counted down the summers until Kelsey finished 5th grade, the same age I read Little Women, then bought a beautiful illustrated volume and read one chapter a night to her. I envisioned a lovely summer full of evenings following the March sisters through their adventures. The third day in, Kelsey picked up the book and read for two days straight. She wasn’t about to string out the story.
As I’ve written before, it can be hard for readers to enjoy classics if they are used to fast-paced plot driven books. Accompanying a classic with an associated current book can ease the transition from one style of writing to another. I love Little Women for a family book group because there are enjoyable related books which can add to the discussion.
For young adult readers of all ages, The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O’Connor McNees is a fictional love story between Louisa and the local hunk. The reader cheers for the couple and wishes for Louisa to have it all, a marriage and a writing career. Unfortunately, that was unheard of in 1855. Moreover, Alcott family’s destitute life demonstrated what happens in a world where women don’t work for pay and the ‘man of the house’ refuses to provide for his loved ones. It’s a charming story that reminds us to be grateful for women’s rights. The Lost Summer could be read either before or after Little Women, but is probably more meaningful if read second.
For the middle reader set, The Mother-Daughter Book Club books entwines a classic with the lives of the four girls that comprise the club and their respective parent. The first book follows Little Women as the group forms and eventually gels. These four middle schoolers are vastly different, and some don’t even like others, which adds an element of real life adolescent girlhood. But they eventually see each other for their true selves, not just their middle school images. The plot includes humorous and touching moments with an enjoyable fairy tale ending. This book could easily be read before Little Women and serve as an incentive to read it.
Mix reading Little Women with The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott for adults and young adults or with The Mother-Daughter Book Club for middle age readers. Set aside a time or two to discuss the books and how they play off of one another. Make sure to add some treats for munching. Finish with a summer movie night watching the classic Katherine Hepburn “Little Women” or one of the more modern versions.
A family book group can demonstrate to your kids that reading is actively fun. Enjoy!