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Friday, July 15, 2011

Guest Blog ~ Mother-Daughter Reads ~ Lisa Bergren

Lisa T. Bergren is the author of over 35 books that have sold over two million copies combined. You can connect with her on Facebook (Lisa Tawn Bergren and River of Time Series), Twitter (@LisaTBergren) and online .



MOTHER - DAUGHTER READS


by Lisa Tawn Bergren


I always thought that mother-daughter reads were a good idea, but when I couldn’t get my daughters to crack a book without begging, bartering or demanding, it became a mission. For years, the only books my girls would read were those they “had” to read for school and maybe one or two others a year. And this from kids who were daughters of a writer, girls who were both in advanced English. I started to wonder just what was going on out t
here—were we losing the way to find and capture young readers? Or just mine?

I brought home book after book, hoping it’d be the one to draw my teens’ fervor—the one that would open their minds to the power of story and the mind-sharpening work of imagination (with no sweat involved other than reading). Even Harry Potter didn’t meet the mark. Stacks, I’m talking stacks of books came and went at my house. And then came Twilight.

I’d heard it was all the rage. I’d heard it was about vampires, but was a surprisingly moral tale. Most importantly, I he
ard teenage girls were rabid about it. So I rushed out and got a copy for Olivia. I think I bribed her to read the first twenty pages. And magically, blessedly, she was hooked. She read the whole thing in a week, staying up late at night.

So then I was curious. I wanted to know the formula: XX characters + XX plot = reading bliss for my teen (and later, to some extent, her younger sis). Turns out, it was romance. Romance with a serious obstacle that seems insurmountable. With a lot of action and suspense. And a drool-worthy hero and a heroine that could be any Ameri
can girl. Ahh, I thought. Okay, I get her reading bent now.

We went on to read the whole series, and went to the first movie together. We talked about things we both loved—the other-worldly aspect of the Cullens (and later the werewolves), the suspense that made our hearts beat fast, the passionate—but largely chaste—romance. We also talked about what I didn’t really care for—principally falling for a man who fights the urge to kill her (“I don’t want you to think that the love of your life, your hero, is the man you fear.”) We talked about what made a man a true hero, what made a man worthy of a woman’s love. They were good, formative conversations.

Since then, we’ve gone on to read a lot of other YA novels together. I buy those I think will likely garner a good Bergren Girl Rating, and pass along those I know they’ll like—if not love. Pre-reading allows me to address anything I’m not really comfortable with—and I’ve begun to write reviews with any red flags for parents and younger readers (you can find them on my web site ). There are a lot of alarming characters and situations in today’s YA fiction—as well as wonderful characters and challenging situations that are great for readers to “try on” and think through via fiction—but it’s best if parents can discuss the Big Stuff when they’ve finished the last page. That’s the beauty of fiction…we get to “experience” difficulties and obstacles in a fictional setting, helping us to be prepared when/if we face those things in real life.


What a lovely portal into a teen’s mind and heart, right? To ignore the opportunity is to miss a significant chance for meaningful connection and development.

Happily, youth fiction has gotten pretty sophisticated. I find a lot of it engaging for my mind and heart, as well as my daughter’s. They say that a teen’s time of life has a lot in common with midlife—reexamining priorities, goals, relationships, identity. Perhaps that’s what makes it such a great genre for mothers and daughters to read together.

I’ve heard from lots of teens—and their moms—since my new YA series, The River of Time (Waterfall, Cascade, Torrent) began to release. And that makes me so happy. But truth be told, I wrote it first and foremost, for my own girls, Olivia and Emma. Which reminds me…I need to discuss a few points with them about it…


2 comments:

Cathy Gohlke said...

Thank you so much for this post! It's exciting to think about parents reading with their children and engaging in real life discussions that spring from the pages of fiction. What a gift for them both, and what more could an author want than to know her/his books provided that opportunity? It's a gift and part of a developing relationship that can continue into adulthood. My grown daughter, who works with young people, and I recently had some wonderful discussions based on two of Siri Mitchell's books, especially "She Walks in Beauty." It's loaded with thought provoking material for teen girls. In the last couple of years my two books, "William Henry is a Fine Name" and "I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires" were read by a mother/daughter book club. When visiting, I was amazed by all they'd gleaned from the books--from different generational perspectives and together. Discussing books and the problems characters confront helps to address situations before they happen and can even bridge gaps during awkward seasons. If it's a fictional character's problem, it seems "safer" and the distance provides perspective.

Gina Holmes said...

Sounds like I've been going through similar but with my boys. They yawned at Narnia, but devoured Tale of Despereux with me reading to them, and later on their own (sigh) Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Haven't found anything else. Now our girls, love to read.