Mothers, daughters, books

Maryvale Preparatory club aims to open pupils' minds, make reading `come alive'

May 16, 1999|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,SUN STAFF

Talking about books has made talking about life, and its trouble spots, a little easier for pupils and adults at Maryvale Preparatory School.

Through the school's Mother-Daughter Book Club, middle-schoolers, their mothers and teachers have found that opening a book has often meant opening their minds as well, leading to discussions they might not have had -- on such issues as violence, body image, sibling rivalry, isolation, and friendships gone sour.

Started this school year, the evening book club had four meetings and attracted as many as a dozen mother-daughter pairs in the medieval-looking "castle" on the campus of the Brooklandville school.

There, they discussed one book each meeting, chosen by school librarian Helen Mashbaum from among past Black-Eyed Susan Award winners. These are books, mostly fiction, singled out by Maryland librarians -- but with the final voting by pupils, based on their quality and appeal to young people in grades six to nine.

They include such books as "Yolanda's Genius" by Carol Fenner and "Remembering Mog" by Marylander Colby Rodowsky -- titles the girls might not have chosen to read on their own, much less talk about with adults.

"With this age, a lot of times your interaction isn't always positive," said Tyra DeCarlo, mother of Maryvale seventh-grader Cait-lin Kelly. "Kids do think that parents are so different, and then they hear us saying we relate to these books in the way they do, and that's good, too."

The book club meetings seem to have been nothing but positive.

"I think it's really fun," said Cait-lin. "Sometimes when you read a book, you don't always look at it like others do.

"It introduced you to things you would never read," she said after the book club's last meeting of the school year -- a session that focused on "Yolanda's Genius."

The club also did its part to further the adage, "You can't judge a book by its cover," especially for seventh-grader Jena Coster.

"I would look at the cover; I would probably never read this," she said of the first book the club tackled, "Belle Prater's Boy" by Ruth White. "It ended up to be my favorite." Jena has finished more than 30 books this school year.

"Every time I come, I feel how worthwhile it is for me," said Maria Salvatore, head of the middle school at the all-girls school. She is one of the founding mothers of the book club, which sprang from discussions last summer on how to keep middle-schoolers interested in reading.

Mashbaum and middle school English teacher Laura Hammond organized and promoted the club and chose the books. They have been regulars at the meetings along with Salvatore, who said, "Nothing makes reading come alive like discussions of books."

Mashbaum said the girls' "comfort level" has increased with each meeting and "everybody's ideas have enriched the discussions."

The club will continue next school year, with five meetings already marked on the calendar.

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