Parenting

How I'm Bonding With My Tween Through Reading

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Reading to my children has always been one of the best parts of my day and where most of our attachment and connection to each other occurs. We find chunks of quality time while driving together in the car, having dinner, or playing a game. But snuggling up with a book is usually drama free and comforting for all of us.

My twins are 8 and my oldest is 10, and I have been reading to them since they were newborns. Board books, picture books, chapter books, and graphic novels fill bookshelves and clutter the sides of their beds. I read to the twins together; their interests are similar but they still have certain preferences over the book’s topic so there is a little more negotiation to find the perfect story each night. Based on my suggestions, my oldest daughter and I have read through series after series of books. My kids are starting to read on their own on some nights, though, and our routine has shifted a bit.

I love the connection with them during our nightly story time, and I miss our routine on the night they read to themselves. I miss sharing stories and hearing our voices laugh and talk over one another. But I’m also really proud of them and their ability to be their own individuals who are autonomous from me. On the nights my kids read independently I usually listen to or read my own book. After an interaction with my oldest child, I now read what they’re reading, quietly and snuggled up right next to them.

My 10-year-old daughter excitedly told me that she was ready to start the Warriors book series. This was weeks after encouraging her to try them; we have read Animal Inn, Harry Potter, Upside Down Magic series and had recently finished all of the Wings of Fire books together. I’m always the first one to read these books aloud to her and then she will read them again on her own. Instead of moving onto something new, specifically the Warriors books that feature four clans of wild cats who live and fight by warrior code, she has wanted me to re-read certain Wings of Fire books to her each night.

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Getty Images/Westend61

When my daughter finally agreed to start the series I told her I was excited to read them with her. “Oh. I’m reading them by myself.” Oh. Ouch. I was a little disappointed that we wouldn’t be sharing the series together, but I was more excited that she was finally trying something new and told her so.

She was about half way through the first book and couldn’t stop talking about it. She wanted to share the plot with me but was frustrated I didn’t know the storyline. “You can read it too!” she told me in a flash of brilliance that seemed to surprise her. Admittedly I wasn’t excited to give up my reading or listening time to read about feral cats. Reading them to her could be built into our day; did I want to make extra time to read the books on my own?

My daughter was frustrated that I wasn’t able to talk to her about the book she had just finished, but I realized that she was missing our story connection too. I quickly downloaded the book and listened to it before I fell asleep at night and while cooking dinner and washing dishes. We read the second book side by side—she read the hard copy while I listened to it through my Libby app.

I could tell that it meant a lot to my daughter that I was able to engage with her again about the book we had just finished even though this time done separately. I have done this a few times with my twins too. Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Phoebe and her Unicorn aren’t high on my to-read list but if it means I can still have conversations about the stories my kids love then I’m on it. I still read to my kids more nights than I don’t but this new addition to our routine keeps our nightly bonding sessions intact.

There will likely come a time when they don’t want more than a hug goodnight (if at all) and they may become mortified that want to read something they’re interested in. I won’t force myself on their thing or try to insert myself (too much) where I’m not wanted, but while they still want me engaged in this way I will always find a way to connect with them through books.

I won’t be looking for their journals or reading personal notes, but I make no promises that I won’t find ways to snoop on them and their interests as they get older. One of the ways I’ll do it will be by skimming the books I hope they continue to read, even if it’s a book from school. I anticipate we’ll still be able to intentionally share conversations about the same story. But if I have to leave crumbs of conversations based on literary espionage, I will.

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