If you google ‘read with your teenager’, most of what pops up are articles about how to read with your kids – ages 1 through 12. Sure, there’s a couple sources sprinkled in there about how to read with your teenager, but mostly they are assuming that by this age, you’ve either A) given up on having anything in common in your reading life with your teenagers or B) don’t care about what your teenaged kids are reading.
If the image you get when I say ‘read with your teenager’ is one of you, holding Goodnight Moon with a 16 year old perched on your lap, well, bonus points for humor, but clearly, that’s not what I mean. Let me go over all the ways you can read with your teenager and the reasons why.
Pick A Series
Remember how wonderful it felt when the whole family was enjoying Harry Potter together? Whether you were reading it to them, you did it on audio for a road trip, or you had read them long ago and got to (finally) discuss it with your kid as they discovered it too, reading an entire series with your kid can be tons of fun. Harry Potter isn’t the only series out there, folks.
Right now, I’m catching up on the Keeper of the Lost Cities books by Shannon Messenger, but there’s dozens of good series, from the Hunger Games to Redwall to Steelheart that will keep you busy. It will give you plenty to talk about and something to connect over at a time when you think your teenager is growing away from you, and theyfact that you are interested in what they are reading is going to show your teen that you care about them – not just what they read, but what they think about what they read.
Use Your Kids Homework to Catch Up on Great Literature
I know you want to think your kids English teachers are spending lots of time discussing the assigned reading and getting their students fired up about the books they’ve read, but they don’t have as much time for that as you think. After reading Orwell’s 1984, it’s much more likely there’s a few minutes of chat on it, and then discussion about the five paragraph essay they will have to write and what the questions might be that will show up on the AP exam. You want insightful chat, you need to do it yourself – but this was an absolute joy for me. I had huge gaps in my literary knowledge, and the opportunity to read Of Mice and Men and The Catcher in the Rye (neither of which I’d ever read before) while Song&Dance was reading them for school, and then discuss them with her was great fun as a reading parent. The fact that she could discuss them with someone when her class didn’t always have time meant a lot to her. No, you won’t be able to read all the books your kids are assigned in high school, but a select few will mean a lot to both of you.
Tackle a List with your Teen
Whether it’s a series, a new favorite author’s backlist, or even some favorite YA book blogger’s recommended summer reads, a list you and your teen can check off together has huge bonding benefits. Currently, Amusing Artist and I are wading our way through the Newbery Medal winners since the inception of the award. (You can find that list here).
There are lots of good books out there, and without this list, she might never have read A Wrinkle in Time or From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and I never would have read Neil Gaiman’s brilliant The Graveyard Book. We both read the brilliant When You Reach Me and it really opened up a big conversation about friendships not going well.
Sometimes I read them to her, sometimes we read them separately, but either way, the discussions about why these books were the best of the year are interesting, and some of the literature is not what we’d normally pick off the shelf. It’s expanding both our horizons.
Get Thee to A Library….
Or a bookstore with a section specifically labeled Teen. There are lots of interesting looking books – and if you’ve been reluctant up until now to read a book about teens (because you, what, don’t want to know what they’re feeling, thinking, or worrying about?) let me reframe this for you: Had the Teen section existed in libraries and bookstores since the beginning of time, think of some of the fabulous titles you would find there. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Little Women, Jane Eyre, Anne of Green Gables, and Ender’s Game – all about teens. The Catcher in The Rye would be there.
Romeo & Juliet would be there.
So go grab a book about a teenager – preferably one off your own kid’s bookshelf – and get reading.