Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Reading With Older Kids

by Melanie Heuis­er Hill

Our first-born turned eigh­teen this week. This prompt­ed many trips down mem­o­ry lane about his child­hood, as he is now an “adult.” I was rather tick­led to real­ize that so many of our fam­i­ly mem­o­ries have to do with books—all the cool books we’ve read, the cool places we read them in, and the times we’ve read when the oth­er par­ent­ing pro­to­cols didn’t quite seem to fit. (When in doubt, read togeth­er, I say. It will sure­ly nev­er make things worse, and almost always improves the sit­u­a­tion in some way.) 

Gone are the days when I read a book aloud to him. I know there are fam­i­lies who do this through the high school years and even beyond. I admire this very much, but we haven’t. For­mal­ly, at least. I can’t remem­ber exact­ly when we stopped—reading aloud time was prob­a­bly extend­ed for him because he has a much younger sib­ling. Even now he some­times “lis­tens in” as we read to her. But I strug­gle to pin­point when we stopped curl­ing up on the couch togeth­er before bed­time to read. Prob­a­bly when the home­work took over his life. 

QuietWhat has changed is the prepo­si­tion. We no longer read to the man-child, but rather with him. This hap­pens in a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent ways. He tends to read many of the same news arti­cles, pro­files, and human-inter­est sto­ries that I do. This is, as I see it, one of the best things to come from tech­nol­o­gy in our moth­er-son relationship—we both have easy access to the New York Times, The Atlantic, The New York­er etc. In anoth­er time, these might not have been lying around in the liv­ing room for serendip­i­tous read­ing. He also zones in on the same sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy news, as well as the same fan­ta­sy or detec­tive nov­els, as his Dad. 

Each per­son might read these shared inter­est read­ing mate­ri­als at dif­fer­ent times, but when two or more have read the same thing, there is often con­ver­sa­tion at sup­per, dis­cus­sion as stalling/procrastination tech­nique (he hasn’t out­grown all the lit­tle-boy behav­iors), or shar­ing ideas in the car. 

We’ve also start­ed shar­ing books more fre­quent­ly. We gave him Qui­et: The Pow­er of Intro­verts In a World That Just Can’t Stop Talk­ing for Christ­mas. He inhaled it and pressed it into my hands with a “You have to read this!” The audio­book came in for me at the library and I am now lis­ten­ing to it as I com­mute. “Mom, have you got­ten to the part about…..?” he asks again and again. 

The Double BindHe looks on the liv­ing room book­shelf and notices a bat­tered copy of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Dark­ness. “Hey, we’re read­ing that next in Eng­lish,” he says. And so I re-read the book I haven’t read since I was his age, in fresh­man Eng­lish class. When he read The Great Gats­by, I said, “And now you must read The Dou­ble Bind by Chris Boh­jalian.” 

We read and dis­cuss banned books togeth­er, share book­lists and arti­cles, and read and attend Shake­speare plays togeth­er. We often find that our book­shelves are not as per­son­al as they once were—they’re more famil­ial. If I can’t find a cer­tain book in my office, I head to his room and see if it is on his shelves, or to his sister’s shelves and see if it is there. They share quite a lot now, too, so a book search can some­times take a while. 

He’s a read­er, which I feel a lit­tle proud about and a lot relieved. All of those hours and hours and hours of read­ing to him have led to very enjoy­able teen years of read­ing with him. I hope this will con­tin­ue as he grows into adult­hood. I had no idea when we start­ed that read­ing was the gift that would keep on giv­ing. I know the two don’t always cor­re­late, but I’m awful­ly glad they have in our house.


4 Responses to Reading With Older Kids

  1. Joanne Toft March 5, 2015 at 7:54 am #

    I love the read­ing with him now instead of to him. My books keep dis­ap­pear­ing alto­geth­er and it took me awhile to ask my daugh­ter — yeah she says that book is at my house now. I love when books have legs and walk from house to house. Hap­py Read­ing.

    • Melanie March 7, 2015 at 3:55 pm #

      Ah yes–disappearing books. A good prob­lem to have!

  2. Norma Gaffron March 5, 2015 at 8:18 am #

    A WONDERFUL ARTICLE. My son is 53 years old. On his last birth­day I read Dr. Seuss’s Hap­py Birth­day to You (again) to him and his fam­i­ly. Even the dog lis­tened. I could tell, because Spot looked up at me every time I paused to show the pic­tures!!! I’m sit­ting in what the grand­chil­dren call my “Book Room” as I write this. I look for­ward to more from Bookol­o­gy.

  3. Melanie March 7, 2015 at 3:56 pm #

    I aspire to hav­ing grand­chil­dren who talk about my Book Room! That’s just terrific–love the image of Spot lis­ten­ing to you read.

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