Don’t Stop Reading Aloud to Your Children – Even Your Teens!

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Most of us are pretty diligent to read books to our children when they are toddlers. It promotes great lap and cuddle time, they love to look at the pictures and turn the pages (5 at a time) as we read, and many of those stories are so sweet! Read-alouds are great for calming them down at bedtime, too. We continue to do this as they enter elementary school because we are told it is beneficial to them. Yes, our early readers need to be regularly reading out loud to US at this age to help build their skills, too. And, quite frankly, it builds Mom’s skill of patience as the child labors to sound out words as I wait with bated breath during those hauntingly long pauses.

“The….b..boy…and…h..h..his…d…d..d…

No. Don’t fill in the word for him…. must…hold…out.

Sorry. I digress.

Reading out loud to our children provides more benefits than you know. You get to extend that sweet time of cuddling on the couch as you enjoy fascinating adventures and mysteries together. You are able to discuss things that happened in the story and guess together what you think will happen next. It builds comprehension skills, and thinking skills, and vocabulary skills, and I could go on and on.

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I always had a book that we were reading aloud together as a family during school time. Sometimes it fit with what we were studying in history or other subjects. Other times it was a completely stand-alone book, but one that we thought would be a great read.

I loved reading aloud to my children, too. But there WAS one pitfall.

It was often the first opportunity in the day that I had to actually sit on the couch. And there were several times that I would be reading, some kids sitting next to me and others playing quietly on the floor, when all of a sudden… I would wake up! I would see the book still open on my lap, yet the children had suddenly disappeared!

Yes. I had actually read MYSELF to sleep! I imagine my children hearing Mom as she was reading, then her voice suddenly became slurred and quiet….

Wait…Mom is asleep…Let’s tiptoe out of the room so we can go play with our toys!

Yep. I’m pretty sure that is what happened. The only report I would get from them is, “You fell asleep, so we thought read-aloud time was over. We didn’t want to wake you up (how THOUGHTFUL of them), so we came here to play.”

Well, that is my one and only caution to you if you read books out loud to your children. It is a good idea to sit upright and not get too comfortable.

So at what age do we stop reading to them? Some say once they are able to read to themselves, then you are good. Others say once they hit middle school. Still others say high school is a good place to stop.

I say NEVER STOP READING TO THEM!

When my kids were younger, I would read to the littler ones. I didn’t gather the older ones to join us, because I thought they had “more important” things to do. But I noticed something interesting. As we were sitting on the couch, the older ones would walk by us in the room. They would pause. Then they would quietly sit down nearby. They were listening! They were interested in hearing the stories, too.

I wondered if I should stop to remind them to get busy with other work, but I stopped myself. I just kept on reading. And I am glad I did.

I realized that this is a family building time. Reading together allows all of us to share a great experience as a family. Sometimes they would hear me as I was choking out words between tears during a particularly sad part of a story. Other times, I couldn’t get the words out because what was happening was so funny. So I would give the book to another child who could read it to us all.

Many times we did family reading times in the evening so we could include Dad into the mix. There is such a blessing for our children to hear their father read stories to them. You see, when you hear a story, you are sharing emotions together. You are able to talk about what’s going on in the story. Yes, academically, there is lots of education happening, too.

But I suggest that the more important part of doing this is for the benefit of the relationships. And THAT is precisely why I think it is so important to try to read with your teens. Take turns reading to each other. It doesn’t always have to be a preachy time where Mom and Dad discuss the moral of the story and the lessons we should all learn from it.

Dialogue with your teens. Let them have turns reading. Maybe bring up a topic from the book a day or two later. This gives you the opportunity to capture deeper moments together. To better find out what is going on in the head and heart of your young adults.

You can laugh together, you can question together, you can learn together as you discover great literature.

Several years ago, when our children were pre-teens and teens, we took a three-week-long family trip, driving around the western United States. Knowing we would be doing lots of driving, we packed several books on tape. One story, in particular, was 19 hours long. It was an adventure novel series. And it was fascinating.

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On one day of our trip, we were listening to a portion of the story as we were driving to Arches National Park. As we pulled up to our parking place, the kids didn’t want to get out of the van.

“C’mon, guys. Look ahead of you, there are amazing red-earthed arches the height of tall buildings in front of you. Let’s go explore them!”

“Dad, can we wait until this chapter is done, first? Pleeeease?”

“What? Can’t you see this? ARCHES NATIONAL PARK! It is BEAUTIFUL!”

“We know, Dad. We want to see it. But we are in the middle of an adventure.”

And THAT is why we need to enjoy good books together. THAT is why we shouldn’t stop doing this when they complete elementary school. Enjoy those adventures together! They are not “too cool” or “too grown up” for this.

Don’t stop reading to them. It is one more way to pursue and build relationships with your children as they become young adults.

Capture that time together!