I used to love food shopping day as a kid, but not because I was hoping to sneak a box of sugary cereal into the cart or score a candy car from the checkout display. I jumped at the chance to go the store because that was when I’d hang out with my best friends, Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne, and Stacey. While my mom headed to the produce I’d go running to the book section, trying to fly through as many pages of the newest Baby-Sitters Club book as I could before she got to the frozen foods. She’d always get there before I finished, and when I’d beg to buy the latest volume in the girls’ adventures she’d ask me, “How many of those books are there anyway?”
(Just a tip, mom-fans: Soak up some awesome 80s nostalgia with The Baby-Sitters Club Retro Tin that includes the first six books in the bestselling series — with their classic covers! It's a perfect way to share the series you loved with your tween reader while taking a stroll down memory lane.)
If you’re old enough to remember shoelace hair barrettes and when slap bracelets were cool the first time around, you’ve probably read at least a few volumes of The Baby-Sitters Club. These five girls (and later Jessie, Mallory, Shannon and Abby) showed us a blueprint for running a business, the value in being kind to our friends and how to learn from our mistakes. Stonybrook, CT may not be a real place, but that didn’t stop us from wanting to live there anyway.
Like the capri pants Claudia rocked on the regular, The Baby-Sitters Club books have stood the test of time. (Fellow moms will recognize the collectible covers, while kids today clamor for the modern Graphix books.) Turns out there’s a bunch of valuable life lessons tucked inside those paperbacks.
1. You’re Never Too Young To Be A #GirlBoss
Kristy was only in middle school when she had the “great idea” to start a baby-sitting club that was actually a highly organized company. These girls may have been dealing with typical teen issues like homework and crushes, but that didn’t stop them from having regular meetings, assigning officers, keeping records, and even coming up with marketing and advertising ideas (remember the Kid Kits?) The Babysitters Club books show readers that with enough determination and hard work, they too can accomplish big goals.
2. It’s Cool to Be Your Own Person
One of the best things about the girls in the Baby-Sitters Club is how they accept each other for who they are and love each other despite their differences. Claudia may be a junk food addict and Dawn a vegetarian, but that doesn’t stop them from being friends. Stacey adores all things beauty and fashion while Kristy considers throwing on a baseball cap as doing her hair, and yet they still care for and respect one another. In today’s online world, it’s easy for kids to fall into the false belief that there’s only one way to be cool or look beautiful. Reading The Baby-Sitters Club books might just help kids realize there’s more than one way to be a girl, and that real friends will celebrate the things that make you, you.
3. It’s Okay to Make Mistakes
The Baby-Sitters Club members were besties, but even best friends fight sometimes. For instance, in MaryAnne Saves the Day, the girls have a major blow up over whether sitting jobs are being assigned equally and fairly. They insult each other, and wind up not speaking for weeks. But in time they realize how unkind they were to each other and apologize, forming even stronger bonds. Hurray for growth mindset and healthy female friendships!
4. Don’t Let the Cokie Masons of the World Get You Down
Whether she was sending creepy fake love notes to Kristy or trying to swipe Logan from Mary Anne, Cokie Mason seems to get joy from mean schemes against The Baby-Sitters Club. Everyone’s dealt with a real world Cokie at some point — a person who builds themselves up by trying to push others down. Seeing how The Baby-Sitters Club members do their best to never let her get under their skin sets a great example for the girls of today in how to handle a toxic person.
5. No One’s Life Is Perfect
With puberty and middle school often comes a heaping dose of self-doubt. It’s easy to look at your peers and think that everyone’s living a more charmed, happier life than you are. The Baby-Sitters Club characters may be fictional, but their lives are complex as anyone in the real world. Kristy struggles in her relationship with her step-mom, Karen. Stacey has diabetes and is coping with her parents’ divorce. Claudia loses her beloved grandmother and fights to keep up in school. Mary Anne may have had a perfect boyfriend in Logan, but she discovers long held family secrets and loses her house in an awful fire. These and other trials the girls face do more than create compelling plot lines. They also help readers understand that everyone faces challenges in their lives, and we can find happiness and success in spite them.
The storylines may not feature modern day problems such as Kristy and Mary Ann arguing via text message or where Mallory loses her cell phone privileges. But the core ideas of hard work, self-confidence, and the value of friendship behind The Baby-Sitters Club books are as relevant today as when they were first printed. I can’t wait until my niece is old enough to fall in love with them and, in the meantime, I just might have to revisit them myself.
Want more book ideas? Sign up for our Scholastic Parents newsletter.