Once your kids have outgrown the bedtime story stage, it's easy to turn bedtime into a halfhearted wave from the couch. But giving up that evening routine means giving up a chance to end each day with some closeness and reassurance right when your child needs it most. Reading chapter books aloud with your tween gives you a chance to be together and enjoy each other's company.
Sometimes, what you're reading will spark a discussion. Other times, it's a way to check in with your child and feel physically close for a few minutes. You don't have to seek out books with a message. In fact, it's fine to let your tween choose the books himself. But if you're looking for a little help getting started, look through our list and choose something you'll both enjoy.
There's a reason some of the best stories have been around as long as they have. Even if your child has never read any of the classics, you can try reading To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee or The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain. Never read them in your youth? Then you're in for a treat as well. Both books work well for boys and girls and will engage you from the very first page. You can use these books to open discussions about right and wrong -- or you can simply let the words speak for themselves.
It's not unusual for tweens to feel that they don't fit in anywhere.You can help by choosing stories that offer kids encouragement and support. In The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman, an 18-month-old toddler escapes when the rest of his family is stabbed to death. He makes his way to a nearby graveyard, where he is adopted and reared by ghosts. Over the course of the book, the boy grows into a teenager, living and learning from his graveyard family.
Another story of a boy exploring his identity is Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. When Arnold Spirit transfers from the reservation school to an upper-class, predominantly white school, he's surprised to find he fits in with everyone and makes the basketball team. On the court, he confronts his former classmates; the rest of the time he confronts his own definitions of family, tribe, and identity.
If you'd like to share something unexpected with your daughter try Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. Look past the title, because there's nothing Disney or frilly about this story -- it's set in a mining village and will surprise you at every turn.
As your daughter navigates the tween years, her friendships will grow and change -- and sometimes disappear. All Alone in the Universe by Lynne Rae Perkins is the perfect story to read when your daughter is feeling her way through these tumultuous years. It's a realistic story that will help your daughter understand and name what she's feeling. You'll find yourself wishing you had read it at her age.
If you're looking for the next Harry Potter or Twilight to read with your tweens, give the Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix a whirl. This 7-part series about a seventh grader lets kids delve into an exciting world they can return to throughout the course of the series.
Reading with your tween might seem a little unnatural at first. But stick it out and create a routine. You'll find that you both come to enjoy it greatly, and it can help keep you connected throughout the teen years.
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