Navigating the uncharted waters of childhood and adolescence can be especially complicated for girls. Traditionally, girls have been taught to be passive and “cooperative.” Those behaviors have not served girls and women well. There is increasing evidence to suggest that girls should be taught assertiveness as well as empathy. Fortunately, a local group of mothers and daughters is doing just that through a book club.
The Blue Kittens is a group of six second-grade girls and their mothers here in Lyons who are part of a national project to support girls as they navigate their social world. The Girls Leadership Book Club is designed for girls from second grade through eighth grade and their grown-ups. Co-founder Simone Marean puts it this way: “It’s crucial that adults start helping young girls to engage in productive conflict, acknowledge and grow from mistakes, develop emotional intelligence and take responsibility for the role they each play in social situations.”
The program provides suggested reading lists as well as optional workshops for girls and their grown-ups. The site also provides meeting guides and discussion questions. A Blue Kittens mother, Heather Baltrush, explains, “The best aspects of the book club are a combination of reading the story together with our daughters as well as their excitement that other friends are reading the same book to discuss. The girls look forward to sharing their thoughts about the books. Many of the books have covered various international main female characters who live very different lives than is common in our community. So learning about their lives is intriguing, as well as finding common ground in the challenges they face or how they solve conflicts.”
The club meets monthly to discuss the book they have just read. The most recent meeting began with a recitation of the group rules: Don’t name names when you are sharing about friendship difficulties, and listen when someone is talking. That was followed by a nonsense game of Mimze Woozle. Each girl took turns demonstrating various moves and gestures, and the other girls and moms mimicked her. This kind of activity provides a non-threatening opportunity for each girl to practice and experience taking the lead. As the girls get older, perhaps in third or fourth grade, they will take over leading the meetings entirely. Until then, each girl and her mom present a question based on the book from the monthly tool kit for discussion.
This month’s book, “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon” by Grace Lin, is a Newberry Honor Book fantasy story of Minli, a young girl in China who sets out alone on a quest. Along the way, she encounters various creatures, including a dragon who travels with her. The Blue Kittens shared that they were impressed by Minli’s courage, persistence, resourcefulness, self-reliance, caring, and intelligence. They expressed their amazement at all that Minli accomplished.
The meeting closed with a circle game where everyone stood and took turns turning to the person on her right, looking her in the eye, and attempting one clap simultaneously. This activity promotes making eye contact and observing body language.
The Blue Kittens club is the recommended maximum size of six girls and parents, enabling each girl to make a contribution without burdening a host with more than twelve guests. If you are interested in starting your own book club or just learning more, go to: girlsleadership.org.