Once my children hit their teen and tween years, there was no reason to stop reading aloud to them even though it was a little trickier to schedule. After all, reading aloud has always been an important part of our homeschool family culture.
The Undeniable Value Of Reading Aloud
From the time our babies are born, we are constantly reminded how important it is to read to them. We buy board books and picture books and we spend time every day reading to our little ones. We know that reading aloud to our children offers so many benefits.
Reading aloud increases their vocabulary. As their brains develop, the words they hear help them develop vocabulary as they acquire language.
When we read aloud to our children, they begin to develop an increased attention span. In a world filled with fast-paced games and television shows, a book moves more slowly. Children are naturally encouraged to slow down, listen, and concentrate.
Our children can explore and discuss strong emotions by reading a story with a trusted adult. We can talk about how a character might feel or why a character is acting a particular way. Not only does this develop empathy, but helps our children learn to identify and discuss their own emotions.
Reading aloud to our children makes them feel happy. In fact, Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud handbook: “Every time we read to a child, we’re sending a ‘pleasure’ message to the child’s brain…conditioning the child to associate books and print with pleasure. (ReadAloud.org)
There is no denying the benefit of reading aloud to our children, but unfortunately, many parents stop reading aloud to their children as they enter the tween and teen years. It’s easy to let this habit become less frequent or even disappear once our children can read on their own, but I encourage parents to continue reading aloud to their tweens and teens.
How Tweens And Teens Still Benefit From Read Aloud Time
Without a doubt, tweens and teens continue to benefit from a parent reading aloud to them or listening to an audiobook with them. There are so many reasons to continue this habit but there are three that I appreciate the most.
Reading Aloud with Teens is a Bonding Experience
When we gather to enjoy a book together, we participate in a shared experience. As we read, our family learns and grows together. We talk, laugh, and even cry as we enter someone else’s story.
This sort of bonding experience is especially important in the teen years as your children are growing and their world is expanding. Teens are in a state of transition, which is often unpredictable and emotional. Reading aloud together is a predictable experience from childhood that keeps our growing family connected.
Of course, the bonding experience doesn’t end when the story does. Many of our favorite stories become part of our family culture. We refer to them in conversation. We joke about them. We often quote them.
I love the culture of reading aloud which helps create family memories.
Reading Aloud with Teens Opens Their Eyes to Various Perspectives
Young Adult literature is full of stories from a variety of perspectives. Without leaving our home, my kids can learn about events and life in the past and the present from the perspective of the people who were there.
We’ve read about the journey of refugees, growing up in other countries, and historical time periods that teach us about various world events.
Listening to a variety of perspectives helps teens understand various points of view, think about different beliefs, and consider someone else’s experience. It helps teens to develop empathy and reduce their biases as they expand their world.
Reading Aloud with Teens continues to have Academic Benefits
Reading aloud and discussing books with teens continues to improve their vocabulary, knowledge of the world around them, and critical thinking skills.
In addition, our family often tackles the classics and other challenging pieces of literature when we listen to a book. We don’t always read classics or challenging literature, but when we do, it is an enjoyable experience that often fosters rich conversations.
How We Incorporate Reading Aloud Into Our Days (even with teens!)
It’s important that everyone is home when you read aloud so no one misses a section of the story, but that can feel impossible with teens. After all, life with teens is busy and often unpredictable.
There are often appointments, classes, activities, clubs, and inconsistent work schedules filing the week. Every day might look just a bit different and there might not even be a weekly consistency, but we continue to find time each week to enjoy a story together.
We find that first thing in the morning, as part of our Morning time with Teens, is an ideal time to listen to an audiobook or for me to read aloud to my teens. When we are all at home, everyone enjoys the slow rhythm of a read-aloud book to start our day. Of course, due to our busy schedules, this only happens 2-3 times a week.
Our second choice is typically listening to a book directly after a meal. Most of the time, we are home for lunch so an afternoon book is ideal when we can’t read together in the morning.
Finally, gathering in the evening works well on days that everyone has been going in different directions. We can usually find at least a half hour after dinner or before bed to sit and enjoy a story.
In a house of teens, flexibility is key if you want to continue reading books together. And I definitely think it is worth it!
Mary is a writer, online teacher, and homeschool mother to four kids ranging from middle school to college. On her homeschool blog, Mary Hanna Wilson, she shares resources, tips, and ideas while encouraging families to embrace the freedom that comes with homeschooling. On her bookworm website, Celebrate a Book, she helps parents celebrate and talk about literature with their kids. As part of helping parents celebrate literature, she now offers live book clubs for kids through Outschool.