Skip to main content Skip to header navigation

Don’t Be Afraid To Read to Your Big Kids, Too

If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, SheKnows may receive an affiliate commission.

“I want to listen to a new audiobook so what’s the one u tagged for me?” 

This text from my 12-year-old daughter filled me with so much glee that I could feel how doofy my face looked from the huge smile. Add the pride and solidarity of having raised a bookworm who texts mostly in full sentences, and one could have been put off by how happy I was. Hey, wins are wins in this parenting game, and those are mine. 

I suggested a couple of books for her, one of which she picked. But she wanted to read the other one together — meaning she wanted it to be the next book I read to her at bedtime. Yep, another win: I still read to my middle-schooler. I also read to my 9-year-old twins before they fall asleep. Story time doesn’t need to end with picture books, and I would argue that story time gets better as kids get older. Instead of keeping pages away from grabby toddlers or reading the same book for the 40 billionth, mind-numbing time, we are exploring new, bigger, and more entertaining worlds. 

My twins still prefer and rely on books with pictures so it has taken us longer to work up to books by Katherine Applegate (Willodeen and Crenshaw) and E.B. White, but we’re there. The Dragon Masters series by Tracey West was a great transition into longer chapter books because the chapters were short and many of the pages have illustrations. 

Each night, after the evening’s rush of someone’s sports practice, dinner, showers, and fights over who is using the bathroom first — which is ridiculous because they all end up jammed in together anyway — we fall into our spots so that I can read a few chapters of the book we’re reading together. Sometimes it’s one my daughter has already heard me read to her, but there is sweet nostalgia for both of us. There is also the glee of knowing what happens next when her siblings don’t. Sibling rivalry is everywhere.

Besides the entertainment factor of listening to and reading a great story with more developed characters and smarter humor, reading middle-school and young adult books with your kids opens the door to bigger conversations that are touched on in picture books but not explored in depth. Reading bigger books to my bigger kids gives me the time and space for those nuanced conversations. It also allows my kids to ask me questions about my own tween and teen years. As much as I am getting to know my kids, they are getting to know me better too. 

Kindness, diversity, body positivity, and friendship will always be themes we gravitate to, but sometimes life shows us the opposite or ugly side of those themes and puts us in a position to correct mistakes and set boundaries. Life is more complicated than simply sharing and caring despite the beauty that could come from doing those things more often. 

I have used books to talk about “big kid” topics like sex, racism, bullying, queer identities, and so much more through the eyes of characters, but mirrored back on my kids’ experiences. 

Reading chapter books to my kids allows them to envision themselves in situations they may find themselves someday; it also gives them a chance to see themselves represented in ways they haven’t in real life. 

Reading these books to them gives me the chance to check in and listen to their reactions in ways that aren’t forced. All topics can — and should — be talked about at all ages in age-appropriate ways, but certain conversations hit differently when longer books create natural space for them to talk to me about their experiences.

For example, their normal life is with a mom and nonbinary parent who are divorced. Books help us talk about how they see themselves when compared to friends who have a dad, single parent, or who are raised by grandparents.

Books have helped us have conversations about how to be anti-racist after they learned that a Black Lives Matter flag was stolen from their school. 

Books have let us talk about consent, divorce, death, and hate in ways that are organic and with examples. 

I love how reading to my older kids provides lessons and valuable conversations that help me be the parent I want to be, but reading with my big kids means sharing a common interest too. Reading a good book is great, but talking about that good book with someone else is even better. And if a movie has been made based on the book, then we are also given a family movie night without the argument of what to watch.

Don’t be afraid to grab a chapter book and read out loud to your big kids. Reading to your kids as they get older creates connections and valuable conversations. It also means finding common ground and escaping together as everyone’s need for independence can feel both freeing and terrifying. I want my kids to physically need me less, but I also want them to rely on me for emotional guidance and support. I love that this reliance looks like asking for our next read.

Leave a Comment