As kids enter the tween years (ages 8 through 13) and learn to read solo, many moms and dads suddenly quit reading to their children. The nights of cuddling together on the couch and sharing a story become nothing more than fond memories. As a result, many tweens stop reading.
While it’s beneficial for your tween to develop his or her own reading skills, a daily reading ritual where Mom or Dad read aloud also has rewards. Reading aloud to your tween enhances the parent-child bond. It encourages discussion on important topics, and it builds your child’s reading comprehension and vocabulary skills.
Reading Rituals Benefit Bonding
As your child becomes a tween he or she is becoming more independent. That’s a good thing. When your child stretches the boundaries of his or her new found independence, however, the parent-child bond that you developed during the baby years may become strained.
Sitting down at night to relax and share a story allows you and your tween to reconnect in neutral territory. As Professor Barry Zuckerman, of the Department of Pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine noted, reading aloud together creates “a period of shared attention and emotion between parent and child.” That’s why continuing this shared time into your child’s tween years will help you and your child continue to connect as he or she grows up.
Reading Promotes Discourse
Reading isn’t just about a story. It’s a give and take; a discourse. Reading to your tween allows you to gain a better understanding of what’s important to your growing child. As you share a book, you have a chance to discuss the problems and turmoil faced by the main character.
Many of these problems discussed in your tween’s favorite book will reflect the types of struggles that your tween faces each day. By having discussions about the characters in a book, you’ll have a natural bridge to asking your tween about his or her own struggles.
Reading Builds Comprehension and Vocabulary
According to Dr. Jack Slinger, a Certified Sports Psychologist and Clinical Psychologist, “Reading out loud to children can expand their vocabularies, foster more vivid imaginations, and help them learn pronunciation skills.” Selecting books that will challenge your tween allows you to introduce new and more complex vocabulary terms. As you read advanced words, point them out to your tween, discuss the context and help your tween adopt them into his or her language. Helping your tween develop advanced language and comprehension will be beneficial to his or her academic performance.
Tips for Reading to Tweens
When reading to your tween, you should skip the picture books. Look for full length chapter books that are a grade level or two above his or her current reading level, and plan to share two or three chapters a night. Reading at a slightly more advanced level will help ease your tween forward in his or her intellectual development. Take turns. Asking your tween to read to you will help him or her build confidence and confirm his or her growing independence. While that’s happening, you’ll also have a chance to assess your child’s reading abilities and determine which areas need further development.
What to Read
Match the book selected to your tween’s interests. If he likes rocket ships and space travel, look for contemporary science fiction. If she is passionate about animals, find books about farms or zoos. You should also identify classic literature such as Black Beauty, Treasure Island, or Tom Sawyer to share with your tween.
Don’t stop at fiction. Look for well written non-fiction. If she plays baseball, find a biography of a famous player. If he is fascinated by airplanes, check out the history of aviation. Introducing your child to a variety of genres will peak his or her natural curiosity and encourage further exploration.
When to Stop
Let your tween lead. Continue reading to him or her as long as you both enjoy it. Eventually, as your tween heads off to high school, homework and social activities will intrude and opportunities for family reading may decrease or disappear altogether. When that happens, don’t be disappointed that you’re no longer needed. Instead, congratulate yourself for a job well done.
Reading to your tween doesn’t need to stop just because he or she is in junior high school. If you make it a family ritual to continue reading throughout the tween years, you’ll develop better bonding with your tween and enhance your tween’s personal growth and education. Plus, you’ll create some warm family memories that will stay with you, and your tween, for the rest of your lives.