We love reading to our kids at home before bedtime. My husband reads to our eldest, who is 8, and I read picture books to our 4-year-old. Then we also try to read a book together as a family, suitable for both ages (at the moment we're on Doctor Dolittle).
And, I can only hope that we will be carrying on this tradition into their tween/teen years when their lives will start to get even busier.
Reading competes with so many things in our kids' busy lives: sport, homework, screens, not to mention the access to unlimited shows and movies on Netflix or Showmax.
And, all of this draws them away from the magic of reading books.
We all know how important it is to read to our younger kids, who either can't read or are just starting to read themselves, but I'm here to tell you it's also important to read to our teens too!
If it's one-on-one, or the whole family sitting in the lounge together listening to a common story, reading together will prompt discussion and debate. And how wonderful is this!
Especially at this time in their lives when they are starting to distance themselves from us, as we seem to have fewer and fewer common interests.
Here's a chance to just sit with them, connect and be together.
But how do we make the time? Well, if reading every night doesn't work for the schedule anymore, make it a school holiday policy to pull out one good book to read as a family - perhaps even two for the long holiday periods.
Are you going on a road trip? Put in an audiobook. Or maybe try start lazy Sundays in bed or curled up on the couch with hot chocolate and 2-3 chapters!
Here are four excellent reasons to carry on reading to your kids past the independent reader stage:
Understanding Written Language
With emerging readers, it's good to read to them not only because it introduces them to storytelling and a love of reading, but also because it helps them understand written language too. And why is this so important?
Well, if you think about it, writing is just so different from how we speak. It has more descriptions, is more formal, follows strict grammatical rules, and, if you choose books that are above your child's independent reading level, you're helping increase their vocab.
And, if you throw in some questions afterwards, you're helping them with their comprehension skills too.
A Peek into their Lives
Recently, I was very encouraged to hear a mom talk about how she still reads to her 14-year-old daughter. She shared with us that, at a time in her daughter's life when she is starting to slow down the communication in their relationship, reading together is a special time that they share.
She said, "We will often stop in the middle of reading, and my daughter will relate a story from her day that she either just recalled at the moment or has some link to the content of the story." So, here's your opportunity for a peek into your teenager's life, at a moment when they are comfortable enough to share.
Discussing Big Topics
Most recently my husband and our eldest blazed through The Secret Garden and The Little House on the Prairie, and he shared with me (as I've never read the books myself) the interesting ideas and vocabulary that they came across in these stories.
They are both from such a different time, so not only is the vocab different, but the social climate is too and, more often than not, it's not very PC. And what a great chance to chat about these topics together.
Topics like death, divorce, racial issues… so here's your opportunity to discuss these without it being a lecture, just a discussion from many different points of view.
The beauty of reading to older children is that you're not reading the same picture book over and over, but you are instead spending time with characters and having an adventure together.
You are sharing a new world with your child. And, you will notice as they start to understand the many layers and complexities the stories may have, an understanding they wouldn't have had just a few years before.
And this shared experience and time together will only bring you closer.
Recommended books to read with your tweens:
Libertalia: Lost Fortunes by Mel Lewis
Filled with unexpected twists and turns, the Libertalia series starts its journey in a private boarding school in the Eastern Cape in South Africa; the story is a melting pot of friendship, mystery and treasure, peppered with suspense, intrigue and African legend.
The series takes its characters on a journey to a sangoma's hut in the Eastern Cape, searching for ancient treasure in Zimbabwe in Libertalia: Lost Fortunes, and facing family betrayal in Madagascar in Libertalia: Quest for Land.
The characters are diverse and strong, and we see them tackle a host of challenges with aplomb.
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Artemis Fowl is a very unusual hero. Artemis combines the intelligence of Sherlock Holmes with the self-assurance of James Bond and the attitude of Attila the Hun.
But even Artemis doesn't know what he's taken on when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of LEPrecon Unit. These aren't the fairies of bedtime stories. These fairies are armed, and they're dangerous.
Artemis thinks he's got them just where he wants them, but then they stop playing by the rules… Full of unexpected twists and turns, Artemis Fowl opens up a riveting world of magic, mystery, and humour.
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
Published in 40 countries and gracing many bestseller lists, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass; is an enjoyable read for parents and children together.
In The Golden Compass, the first in the series, readers meet 11-year-old Lyra Belacqua, a precocious orphan growing up within the precincts of Jordan College in Oxford, England. It quickly becomes clear that Lyra's Oxford is not precisely like our own, nor is her world.
In Lyra's world, everyone has a personal daemon, a lifelong animal familiar. This is a world in which science, theology and magic are closely intertwined.
What's your recommended reading list for tweens?
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