When they were babies, I read to them in their cribs. As they got older, I’d sit on the side of their beds and read stories to them. Many a night, we’d sit with a boy in our laps reading to them. What parent doesn’t love to hear the words “read another one, daddy!”? Sometimes we’d groan and say “really? We’ve read that one 5 times already today…” Just how many times can you read Dr. Seuss’s “The Foot Book” before you go crazy? Nevertheless, we still have a complete Dr. Seuss collection along with Winnie the Pooh, and Peter Pan, and Goodnight Moon on our bookshelves.
It is no surprise, now that they are old enough to make many choices on their own, my boys still love books. My 9-year-old still loves when I read to him! Every now and then, just for fun, he’ll pull out Peter Pan and say “let’s read this again…I miss it.”
My 15-year-old, Austin… not so much, but he still loves to read… just to himself!
It’s primarily my teenager I want to talk about in this post.
As Austin started to grow out of the “children’s” books and into teen and juvenile fiction, he stopped wanting me to read to him. This was just another area in which he was starting to assert his independence, his “I can do it myself” phase. This is a normal, healthy part of his development.
It’s often hard for parents to let go of the things we loved doing for our kids when they were little, but we must let go and let them stretch and grow new muscles. We mustn’t get our feeling hurt when they say “no, I just want to read alone!” He’s becoming independent and wants to explore the world of books and imagination on his own–and that’s a good thing!
However, that doesn’t mean you should just let your teens go off into the wild world of books all by themselves! You need to be reading the same books your teens are reading! You’ll be glad you did!
Here are 4 reasons you should read the same books as your teens:
1. There are some great juvenile fiction books being written today!
Gary D. Schmidt is an example of an author I had never heard of but have come to love. My son picked up a copy of The Wednesday Wars and started reading it. It looked interesting and my wife had heard good things about it, so I decided we’d read it together–well, not exactly together…he had his copy, I had mine, but we read it at the same time. I was hooked and couldn’t put the book down. The story was gripping from the start (as all great fiction should be), but the language, plot, character and theme development was first class!
After The Wednesday Wars, Austin moved on to another author, but I had to read more. So I went on to read everything else Gary D. Schmidt has published and I now count him among the ranks of my favorite authors!
So, if you’re a reader of fiction, come down off your throne of “grown up” fiction or, heaven forbid, “literature”, and read some teen fiction. You won’t be disappointed.
2. You can see what subjects your teen is encountering through books!
This is where some parents start to get very nervous and, I’ll go ahead and say it, a bit over-protective. We don’t want our children exposed the subjects and themes they may not be mature enough to handle. I agree! We can’t just let our teens walk into any bookstore or library and come with any book they want! We still have to be the parents and sometimes say “No way, mister! Put that one back!”
However, your teens want to and need to come out from under your protective wings and grow some wings of their own. This is healthy! Help your teens make good choices and then give them a little extra rope as they demonstrate their ability to make good choices on their own.
That being said, when your kids do pick a book, you should read it too! Maybe you should even read that book you made him put back because of the questionable cover art and book jacket summary. You might find out that your teen was right and it wasn’t as “racy” as you thought it would be. Even if it does turn out to be as bad as you feared, you can then speak to the subject with experience and not be accused of “judging a book by it’s cover.”
Teens today are growing up in a very different world than the one you and I grew up in. Reading current teen fiction has opened my eyes to their world and the kinds of subjects and themes our current culture is throwing at them.
Information is king! The more you know about your teen’s world, the better you’ll be to help them through the rough spots. [Tweet this!]
As a side benefit, I get to learn and practice (to my son’s indelible embarrassment) some of their “cool” new language!
3. It gives you an easy way to start up a conversation with your teen!
This point really should be obvious and springs from Reason 2. If you have a teenager, you know how difficult (dangerous even?) it can be to start up a conversation!
Reading the same books simply gives you something to talk about. Duh!
You might get surprised by a conversation turn-around, too! I sometimes think it’s going to be me initiating the conversation by saying something like: “hey, what did you think about the car that guy was driving..” or something lame like that.
Every now and then, Austin will come to me with something like this, while reading a book in which the main character lives in a very difficult family situation: “Dad, it really bothers me when Doug’s father gets drunk and hits his mom. What would ever cause a man to do that?” Wow! What an opportunity to connect with my son and address some very real-world issues!
Reading the same books can create amazing connections with your teens!
4. It will show your teen that you care enough to participate in his or her world!
Some of the problems in parenting teens can come from your teen feeling that you are completely disconnected from his or her reality. That’s why we sometimes get the glare that says “you have no idea about my life, so don’t even bother!” Sometimes they are right! Ouch!
We have to be very careful to not make our teens feel like their world is immature or insignificant or something they will just out-grow in a few years. Remember back to when you were a teen apply the Golden Rule of Parenting Teens:
The Golden Rule of Parenting Teens: Treat your teen how you wish your parents had treated you! [Tweet this!]
Reading the same books your teen is reading gives you a chance to break through that wall. It shows your teen you are interested in their world and their issues. You don’t have to like the books or endorse some of the activities or thoughts described in the books. But if you take the time to read them, it shows you care. It gives you some common ground to stand on and talk about (Reason 3).
Sometimes it’s best to not be obvious about reading their books. Do it without their knowing it.
Occasionally, Austin will read a book and I don’t create a lot of fanfare to announce that I’m reading it too. I might read it a week or a month after I know he’s finished it. Maybe it was a book I wasn’t thrilled about him reading but let him do it anyway. If something from the book comes up in conversation, I can simply say “oh, yeah, I read that, too.” He’ll look at me quizzically and say “really? I didn’t think you cared for …”
Now he knows that I may not care for the book or the subject matter, but he knows I care enough about him to experience some of his world!
So, there you have it. Bruce’s 4 Reasons You Should Read the Books Your Teens are Reading.
Like so many other aspects of parenting, try to make it fun for both of you! Don’t turn it into a competition! Give your teen some room to breathe and grow. Use it as another way to connect and to help foster in your teen a love for books! You’ll wind up reading some pretty good books alone the way.
One problem you might have with this idea is time. Parents are busy. I get that. Where do you find the time to read their books? I’ve said this in other posts, but I do most of my “reading” by listening to unabridged audiobooks. I don’t have much time to sit and read, but I can listen to several books a month on my iPhone while I’m driving or running. Give audiobooks a shot if you don’t have time for traditional reading.
I hope you found something in this post useful for your role as a mom or dad. If so, please let me know by leaving me a comment or by sharing or liking or tweet this post to your friends.
P.S. I asked Austin if he would read this before I posted it. He did and said “this is pretty cool” and then just walked away without further commentary. A typical teen-boy response… I’ll take that as a favorable review!
P.P.S. At the time of this writing, Austin and I are reading 11/22/63: A Novel by Stephen King. And, yes, there is some language and subject matter I’m uncomfortable with him reading, but we are talking through it. Oh, and it’s a really good book!