Read Aloud with My Teen? Yes, It Can Be Done!

As parents, we know the delights of reading aloud to our young children. But we’d never imagine our teens might benefit and find enjoyment in it.

When you read with your teen, you accomplish FOUR goals: SHOW him you’re interested in something that interests him; INDICATE behavior you find appropriate, like having an interest in contemporary or historical topics, enjoying various forms of reading, and not least of all, like parents and children actually being in the same room together! HELP him see that reading well and for pleasure is acceptable; ACKNOWLEDGE that you trust his choices so he’ll be confident in his reading interests. But, you say, “My teen would rather pick up his dirty clothes than read with me!”

Here are THREE tips that might make sharing a book with you more attractive than dirty laundry:

(1) Show your teen you’re interested in a book he is already reading. Don’t make the mistake of being over interested, though!

(2) Ask him questions that require more than a yes or no answer. Make sure your tone sounds completely non-judgmental. Here are some examples. “What’s the most interesting thing you’ve discovered about XX in that biography you’re reading for history?” “Shakespeare in English class, huh? Who’s your favorite villain?” “I see you’re reading XX. Do you think I’d like it?” “Can I borrow it when you’re done?”

(3) After you’ve read a little–and of course you must–try to be reading it in his presence.

Now that you’ve got his interest, read out a sentence you like. Read with inflection and feeling. Ask a question you honestly don’t know the answer to. Honestly, now, because you know he’ll know if it’s a prompt.

“I like the description of that character. She sounds like your Aunt Lee,” or “That description of the room is so convincing I feel like I’m there” or “Why did that character betray the other? I thought they were friends.”

Depending on your teen’s mood, ask if you two could read a section or page of the work aloud together. Maybe–probably–he’ll say no. But don’t stop trying. Your child might surprise you.

At nine, my daughter claimed to have no interest in “Treasure Island” until my husband and I started reading it aloud to one another. We have since read aloud other books with age-less appeal: we’re working through “The Princess Bride;” this past year when she turned twelve, we finished “The Golden Compass;” and last year we tackled “Pride and Prejudice.” She has since asked to read my volume of “Romeo and Juliet.” Even going on thirteen, she actually asks me to read to her.

Reading is the most important activity we do in our broadband-connected world. We adults know reading has uses besides storytelling or conveying information. And reading together has benefits for your child that include better and more focused attention span, better grades, and greater emotional bond between parent and child, no matter how old you both are!