Reading to Older Children

Some parents or children think that reading aloud to a child is only for little kids.  It is important to continue this practice even after the child has learned to read himself. Reading themselves and being read to are both important. Children absorb  differently when I listening to an adult read.  Instead of skipping over difficult vocabulary, they hear the word pronounced correctly and may ask for its meaning. If you want to discuss a difficult topic, using a novel as a springboard can be more comfortable than asking your child to sit down for a talk. So, what do you read to children who can read themselves?

First, it must be something both child and adult find interesting and enjoy. Children are very astute at picking up on whether you are bored or preaching. If you are sure you can make the time to read every night, chapter books are best. Start with a smaller book and see how it goes. Don’t just read modern books like the Harry Potter series. Is there a book from your childhood that you would love to read again? Make sure that it is still relevant and not racist or sexist.

Some great books to share are the Chronicles of Narnia. Be sure to start with The Magician’s Nephew.  Although it seems like a simple fantasy at first glance, there are opportunities to examine serious topics such as addiction, the ethics of science experiments, forgiveness, family loyalties, accepting differences, weapons of mass destruction, the corruption of power, WWII, and more.

There are many good young adult science fiction books with a gripping story that also encourages significant dialogue. Even if the child/teen has seen the movie or read the book already, some popular stories stimulate such important discussion that parents will want to guide their children’s interpretation. Suzanne Collins’ s The Hunger Games  and Lois Lowrey’s The Giver are super examples. Be sure to choose some historical fiction such as Hannah’s Suitcase.

Every book needn’t be serious. It’s good to share humor with your child. Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing or Roald Dahl’s Matilda will have the both of you laughing.

Don’t ignore the classics. Some books work with language on two levels and while you don’t want to turn reading into a lesson, it’s good to introduce children to witty or insightful books such as the original books of A. A. Milne and The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. T. H. White’s The Sword in the Stone, which tells the tale of King Arthur,  is both funny and touching.

If your child flatly refuses to engage in “story time”, still share what you are reading in newspapers, magazines, and online. Create a reading family atmosphere and you will go a long way toward fuelling your child’s love of books while creating an openness for discussion.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages