Whitefield Academy Blog
A Lifelong Love of Reading for Your Middle Schooler
When our kids were younger, it was easy to have books readily available. We filled our home with books, went to the library weekly, and “story time” seemed like all the time. I loved watching their little worlds and vocabularies expand as they pored over board books on their own and sat on our laps listening to those beautiful stories.
When our kids reached elementary school age, their reading flourished with their classical education. Soon they were reading on their own and exploring new books, choosing their own interests. But this brought some challenges. Library trips became frustrating as they began choosing books with fun covers but little literary value. Reading abilities soon surpassed many books that were age-appropriate. As they grew, we wanted to continue to instill a lifelong love for reading and continue to have books be one of the focal points in our home.
As our kids have grown into preteens, we’ve found a few steps for helping them choose books. Here’s what’s helped in our house:
1. Choose books that spark their interest
It’s tempting as a parent to steer clear of books you wouldn’t choose, but at this age, establishing and continuing a love for reading is key. When preteens fall in love with books, this is a life skill that can serve them for years to come. Make sure to make books available that are unique to their personality. We are blessed with a librarian at our school who knows our kids personally and will often pull books off the shelves with them specifically in mind!
2. Choose books that are the right fit for their reading level
My daughter’s kindergarten teacher and family friend gave us wonderful advice early on: choose books where the main character is the same age or younger than the child. This generally ensures that the books we choose contain content that is age-appropriate and at the right maturity level. Knowing your child’s intellectual and maturity level and even their sensitivity to certain themes will help you choose and steer them toward books accordingly.
3. Choose books that are great “read-alouds”
Just because my kids don’t fit on my lap anymore doesn’t mean we don’t still have story time! There is a beautiful tradition in continuing to read aloud to our kids as they grow, and it promotes literacy, language, and a relational bond. The key to finding the perfect read-aloud is finding books with story lines and characters that stimulate your kids’ minds and imaginations. It’s also important to find books that appeal to their maturity level. Take advantage of the time you have to share reading aloud as a family: while meals are being prepared, driving in the car with audiobooks, and settling down before bedtime.
4. Choose books that are good books
With as many books as our kids have access to, it’s inevitable they will be drawn to series that are more character driven than story driven, full of “fluff,” and feature more illustrations than text. In our home, we worked out a deal: our kids can choose a more “fun” and easy read (approved by us of course), and in turn, we get to choose their next book. This keeps their interest and love for reading going while also allowing us to get good, quality literature in their hands. I love pointing our children to timeless classics as well as newer stories with good storytelling, strong values, beautiful language, and the ability to capture the imagination and instill a sense of wonder.
5. Choose books that align with your family values
Just as much as we need to be vigilant about the shows, movies, and games our children are exposed to, we also need to be aware of what values the books we put in their hands are teaching them. Often a book’s back cover isn’t enough to give me the information I need to ensure the themes, attitudes, and values expressed are what I want my children exposed to. I’ll often check out book reviews and summaries, ask trusted friends and teachers, or even take the time to read or skim through the book myself if I’m not familiar with the book or author.
These five steps should help your family to encourage that love of reading so many elementary schoolers have and help transition that love into your children’s preteen years. For further practical help and tips, here are some of our family’s favorite resources:
Read for the Heart: Whole Books for Whole-Hearted Families by Sarah Clarkson
The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease
Read Aloud Revival: blog, podcast, and booklist for all ages