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Mothers, daughters bond over books

Tiarra and Taylor Gansmoe attend the book club with their mom, Marinda. All three had read "A Corner of the Universe" in preparation for the October meeting. Staff photo by Louise Ernewein

It's a chance for moms and their daughters to get away for a couple hours on their own.

In a relaxed setting, they can talk about sensitive issues, such as teen suicide, rape, drugs and ethical dilemmas.

And they get to create a whole lot of memories for the future.

This is the Mother-Daughter Book Club of Woodbury Junior High School.

The group has been meeting one evening a month throughout the school year since its formation in 2002.

Leading the club are Jana White, the school's media specialist, and Erin Kerttula, an English teacher.

They are firmly convinced of the importance of the book club to the moms and daughters who attend.

"The idea was that there are issues that moms and daughters really need an opportunity to discuss and that by reading a book together and coming to a group like this when they can talk together, sometimes brings up things that they wouldn't necessarily have talked about otherwise," said White.

"It's a comfortable situation because they aren't necessarily talking about themselves, but about what happened in the book, although it might apply to them...

"I think it serves a unique purpose that other book clubs or groups reading together don't have; it has its own special niche."

The pair say they are never short of ideas for books for the group to read -- more often than not it's more a case of struggling to fit them all in.

Over the last few years, the group has read books such as: "The House of the Scorpion" -- a sci-fi novel dealing with the subjects of clones, drug wars and illegal immigration; "Briar Rose" -- a fantasy tale taking the story of Sleeping Beauty and linking it to the Holocaust; "The Body of Christopher Creed" -- a mystery story of teenage intolerance; and "Speak," a story of teenage rape.

Each meeting (there are approximately five a year) starts with treats brought by one of the mother-daughter pairings and a creative activity based on the book for the evening.

At October's meeting, the activity involved moms and daughters in drawing out their vision of the fairground depicted in the book, "A Corner of the Universe," by Ann M. Martin.

Another activity follows and the meeting closes with a circle discussion of the book. Kerttula said she and White prepare a list of questions just in case conversation is slow getting started, but participants usually lead the discussion with lively enthusiasm.

Marinda Gansmoe has been attending the club with her daughter Taylor for the last couple years. Now Taylor's sister, Tiarra, has started at Woodbury Junior High, she comes, too.

The family is united on the girls-only approach to the club for the most part.

"With some of the books, you can see it's better that it's just girls and their moms," said Taylor.

"But it wouldn't be so bad if the guys came; I just don't think they would."

Mom Marinda Gansmoe agrees.

"The 'Speak' book was about a girl that was raped, and some of the things she went through; that would be a hard one to talk about with the guys there," she said.

Gansmoe added one incentive for her daughters to join was the reward of additional A.R., or accelerated reading, points which count toward their class grade.

"They aren't the kind of kids who were naturally like, 'Give me a book,'" said Gansmoe.

"I wish they were, but I suppose I'm not either...

"I think [the club] is nice because I also want to know how they are comprehending, so as I'm reading it, I'm asking questions."

Maddie Halada, a ninth grader, has been coming to the club with her mom, Becky Schroeder, since she started at junior high.

Schroeder, who is also a member of her own adult book club, said it was a good opportunity to discuss some of the book's issues with her daughter.

"I've enjoyed talking with the other moms and daughters and having some different points of view to the book," she explained.

"Even when Maddie has read the book, she will see it in a different way or get a different perspective than what I get from it.

"It's something good to do together and we have something in common when we read the same books."


• The next meeting of the Mother-Daughter Book Club will be Jan. 12 at 6:30 p.m. The book for discussion will be "The Last Dragon" by Silvana De Mari.