A Novel Idea: Books that Teach Tween Girls How to Be Strong

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cliqueFor the past four or five years, I have volunteered once a month in the on-campus store of the school my daughter attends. It’s not really that noble a thing I’ve taken on; it’s mainly to see what these kids are up to. And, until this year, I’ve always counted my lucky stars that my daughter wasn’t part of that pack—the adolescent gaggle of girls that sticks together thicker than Gorilla Glue and dresses and acts exactly like one another.

But now, it seems, she is.

The other day, five or six of them stormed into the store giggling and talking above one another, racing toward the same display. They each pulled down a skinny, brightly-colored Underarmour headband and jostled their way to a place in the checkout line. It happened so fast I almost didn’t realize that these were my daughters’ friends. Only she wasn’t there.

I wasn’t sure to rejoice that she’d struck out on her own or feel sorry for my daughter that her posse had left her behind. Turns out she had dining hall cleanup duty, or she would’ve been right there alongside them, doing exactly what everyone else was doing. In fact, when I picked her up that afternoon I spied the same headband around her head. At least it was black, I observed. I didn’t think anyone else had chosen black.

That night as I was tucking in my daughter for the evening, I wanted to say something about how important it was to be your own person and not to get sucked into a clique where group-think dominated. But I knew I’d get an eyeball roll. So I did what I sometimes do when confronted with a situation for which I have no answer.

I Googled it. I didn’t come up with the answer to what I perceive as a brewing conundrum, but I did come across a cool suggestion on the website Flashlight Worthy Books, developed by mother and teacher Shannon Rigney Keane.

Under a section header Books for Strong Girls in Middle School, Keane quotes authors Lyn Mikel Brown and Carol Gilligan from their book, Meeting at the Crossroads: Women’s Psychology and Girls’ Development, in which they characterize adolescence as a time when girls tend to “lose their vitality, their resilience, their immunity to depression, their sense of themselves, and their character.”

Bingo, I thought. These gals just summed up precisely what I’m worried about. But back to Keane’s brilliant idea—for adolescent girls who like to read and will still pick up something their mother suggests. She lists several books whose heroines find themselves at this “crossroad” period in their lives and deal with questions of individuality, conformism, and the all the related messy feelings that bubble up in adolescent girls but too often—in real life, any way—remain pushed below the surface. Some of their picks: Rules, by Cynthia Lord; The Secret Language of Girls, by Frances O’Roark Dowell, and A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle. Check out the site for the complete list.

Perfect. My daughter shares very little with me, but loves to lose herself in a good book. Maybe some of these messages that she would poo-poo if I tried to impart them will somehow stick in her brain if she reads them in a book.

Got other ideas on getting girls to see through cliques? Share them in the comments below.

 

 



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