Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

February 11, 2014

Book club gets girls discussing

Debbie Blank The Herald-Tribune
The Batesville Herald-Tribune

---- — Neither snow nor sleet can keep these girls away from their books. Indeed, the Mother-Daughter Book Club met Jan. 28 even though schools were closed.

Former pharmacist and now stay-at-home mom Tricia Jennewein started the group last August. “This has always been a dream of mine,” she reports.

“I’ve always read to my kids, even from the time that they were babies in my lap and not talking yet. As they got older, I read aloud chapter books and we always had an audiobook playing in the car while running errands and certainly on long car trips.”

After moving to Batesville from Kansas City in June 2012, and meeting “other moms with girls my own daughter’s age who shared my values,” it was time to form the club.

In addition to Jennewein and her daughter, Batesville Intermediate School third-grader Chloe Jennewein, 9, other members are BIS fourth-grader Amelia Austin, 9, and mom Carla; St. Louis School second-grader Claire Saner, 8, and mom Jen; BIS fourth-grader Emerson Belew, 10, and mom Lindsay; BIS fourth-grader Maddie Hanley, 9, and mom Melissa; and St. Michael School, Brookville, third-grader Claire VanMeter, 9, and mom Jennie.

“We meet once a month for about 90 minutes, aiming for the evening of the third Tuesday, but we are flexible.”

The leader explains, “Each book has been liked by different people for different reasons. Hearing the differing perspectives is one of the benefits of participating in a book club.”

Amelia Austin reports that so far “my favorite book was ‘Island of the Blue Dolphins’ by Scott O’Dell because it has adventure. It has subjects that are not familiar to me so I have to think deeper.” Maddie Hanley preferred “The Hundred Dresses” by Eleanor Estes “because it felt like I was one of the characters in the book.”

“The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” by Kate DiCamillo has been Chloe Jennewein’s best-loved novel. She says, “I like to play with my own stuffed animals and dolls and pretend they have thoughts and a life to live. That’s what happens in the book.”

Lindsay Belew noticed “how passionate Emme was” about that book. “She had so much sympathy for Edward as he went through so many difficult obstacles.” The mom savored “The Bridge to Terabithia” by Katherine Paterson “because it opened up so many opportunities to discuss real life issues with Emme – poverty and being thankful for the blessings in our own lives, bullying and standing up for yourself and others, being an independent thinker, poor choices vs. smart choices (using curse words, lying, loyalty) as well as death.”

Members also have read “Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison” by Lois Lenski and “If You’re Missing Baby Jesus” by Jean Gietzen.

They have settled into a routine: “The host for the month chooses the book and provides a light snack,” Jennewein explains. “Hosting is part of the learning experience. Our daughters help decide upon and prepare the treat to share and give a hand with the process of getting the house ready for company. I come prepared with a list of questions to get us started. We let the girls do most of the talking if they are willing. At first they were very shy and the moms had to carry the conversation. But for this month, Emerson asked to lead the discussion with her own questions since she chose the book!”

Everyone gets their own copies, either from a bookstore, Kindle or library. It’s up to each pair how they are read and whether they share or each has a copy. “At my home, we’ve both read the book aloud together and apart separately.”

Amelia reads “every chance I get. In the car, in the morning, after school, in math class and many other places.” According to Maddie, “I like to read alone in my bedroom or at school at my desk.”

Lindsay Belew relates, “Typically, Emme, myself and her brother like to read right before bed. We either read on the couch with a blanket or laying in bed in our PJs.” The Jennewein bedtime rule is “you must read quietly in bed or turn out the light and go to sleep. Guess what my kids choose to do?”

Activities haven’t been tailored to books yet. According to the organizer, “We hope to begin taking field trips to Indy or Cincy when we find something that fits.”

She adds, “As the girls get older, I can even see us broaching more sensitive, but necessary topics in a safe manner together. I wanted Chloe to feel that she had a safe group of friends that she could share with, particularly since all of the girls have already dealt with some mean girls and teasing episodes at school.”

The club already has shown many benefits. There have been teachable moments. The coordinator reports, “‘The Hundred Dresses’ was a short story about bullying an outsider. I asked each girl to identify someone at school that week that perhaps felt that way and to make a point of including them. I heard back from multiple sources that the girls did just that!”

It has gotten some out of reading ruts. “Chloe has decided that she likes history and true stories after reading ‘Indian Captive: The True Story,’” her mother says.

Being a part of the group can challenge members to increase their abilities. According to Maddie, “The book club has inspired me to read thicker books.” Chloe adds, “I was already a pretty good reader, but the book club does inspire me to read more. Sometimes I have to read longer than I might normally to finish the book on time. And I also have to pay attention more to the words I read because I know we’re going to talk about it.”

For Lindsay Belew, the club has been a brain booster for all. She reminds that Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. once said, “‘A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions’ .... I love that ... (my daughter) is so interested in many different subjects of life and history! She is very proud of her large vocabulary and reading skills.”

If area book lovers want to start a similar group, what advice does the leader have? “Keep it small so everyone can share their thoughts and get a chance to choose books. Ten to 12 is the maximum number, even for adults. For kids, it also might be beneficial if they were at similar reading levels.”

Amelia points out, “Anyone can start a book club. It is a great way to make new friends.”

Jennewein contends, “I’ve seen a lot of growth in all the girls in the few months we’ve been meeting. They’ve all overcome their shyness. And they have all become friends, which is saying a lot considering they each live in different neighborhoods, are in different grades and classrooms and sometimes even at different schools.”

Debbie Blank can be contacted at debbie.blank@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.