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Most parents know the importance of reading to their young children. We all want our kids to become life-long readers. For pre-school children, story time is a common bedtime ritual. As children approach school age, this routine typically phases out in most homes. The assumption is that once children become independent readers, there is no need for reading together. But story time shouldn't end when kids outgrow Goodnight Moon. Sharing books with kids is something that can carry on, even through the teen years.

Reading with School-age Kids

It is fantastic when kids are able to read independently, and they should be encouraged to do so. But children can listen to and understand stories that are far more complex than ones they can read alone. If parents continue reading aloud to their kids, they can share books that kids may not be able to master on their own. Reading stories aloud also creates opportunities to talk about situations and emotions using examples from the stories. Here are some suggestions for read-aloud books with elementary school kids:

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo is a must read for dog lovers. Young Opal moves to Florida with her preacher father. Life is lonely for Opal until she brings home a stray dog she befriends at the supermarket. With her new dog by her side, Opal overcomes her own sadness, and opens her heart to love and friendship.

Holes by Lois Sacher combines humor and adventure in this story about an unlikely hero, Stanley Yelnats. Young Stanley is falsely accused of a crime, and must "do time" at Camp Green Lake. The boys at the detention camp are required to dig holes all day long. As the story unfolds, friendships develop and the mystery of the holes is uncovered. Readers root for Stanley from beginning to end in this very satisfying story.

Reading with Teens and Tweens

As kids become adolescents and pre-teens, they might not be interested in listening to a parent read. At this point, story time can take on a different form - read the same book your child is reading. This may mean having two copies of the same book. If you choose a contemporary book, it can enlighten you about today's teens and tweens, and open up a dialogue for discussing issues that may affect your child. Here are a couple of suggestions for books to read with your older child:

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brasheres is the story of four best friends who share the perfect pair of jeans. The friends are split up over the summer. They send the jeans back and forth, as their separate experiences unfold. The characters are likeable and the issues they deal with including friendship, divorce, young love, and loss, are realistic. This tender story is a worthwhile read.

The Giver by Lois Lowry is a futuristic tale of a colorless "perfect" world. Jonas, a 12-year-old boy, is given the position of "Keeper of Memories." This task requires Jonas to meet with "The Giver," who reveals information about the past to Jonas. With this growing knowledge, Jonas comes to realize the truth about his "perfect" world.

If your child isn't interested in "reading along" with you, spend time reading together, even if your child is reading a magazine and you read a book of your own choosing. If you can't motivate your teen to take part in any extra-curricular reading at all, join in on what your older child is reading in school. Even if you already have read Diary of Ann Frank, Tom Sawyer, or To Kill a Mockingbird, it is always nice to visit these classics. You will probably enjoy these books more the second time around!

Parents who display a love for books and reading are more likely to pass on the passion to their kids. There are numerous benefits to reading with your kids at all ages. The bond of reading should last a lifetime.

About Barbara Bietz

Barbara Bietz is a writer from Oak Park, California. Her favorite pastime is reading children's books. Barbara enjoys writing for adults and children. Her work has appeared in numerous publications.