By Leah Lesser
Homework. Swimming. Riding (or insert any other sport or activity). Saxophone. Friends. Family time. Dinner. Homework. Bedtime Story. Sleep. Add in there a bit of laughter, play, riding bikes with siblings, and chores, and you’ve got the makings of a very busy tween.
Does any of this sound familiar?
We’re living it. Our 11-year-old daughter can make my busiest days look fairly tame. And she doesn’t even come close to some of her friends who are taking on four or five after-school activities.
One of the things she has talked often about recently is how she’s finding it hard to carve out time for pleasure reading. Time for curling up with a book of her choice on the couch and simply (insert long sigh here…) reading.
She’s right: it is becoming harder and harder, the more serious she gets with sports and saxophone, and the more homework she’s assigned. This is our girl who, since the age of 9 months, has shunned actual toys in favor of books. Books of all shapes and sizes and colors and themes. As long as it had a page to turn and words and pictures, she was happy.
Thankfully, she still loves books. She just finished Fever 1793 for an historical fiction assignment in social studies class. She enjoyed it, she really did. Even so, she said it wasn’t the same as reading for pleasure. That was obvious from the hundreds of colored sticky notes she placed on many of the pages to help her craft her book report.
The sad reality we’re faced with is that she’s no longer able to devour books for fun in the way she used to. Of course the books she’s interested in reading are much longer than they were when she was four
or even six, contributing to the challenge! Oh those chunky board books were great fun, weren’t they?!
Our family has been thinking a lot about this issue and we’ve come up with a few ways to help our tween carve out some pleasure reading time. We’ve picked these up along the way of our parenting journey. Here are some that have been working fairly well:
- Magazines, Newspapers, Blog posts, Oh my! These definitely count as reading. Encourage your tween to pursue his/her passions and interests by reading these media. They offer a much shorter and sometimes more informative variant than a book would provide. (Just know what blogs they are discovering and double check their appropriateness). There are magazines and blogs out there for almost every passion and most of them are easily found online. One of our daughter’s biggest passions, right up there with reading, is horses. She’s now hooked on Young Rider magazine and Chronicle of the Horse blogs. There are magazines and blogs for many hobbies too, from acrobatics to zoology and loads in between.
- Summer offers an easier time to read for many tweens. Sports seasons generally come to a halt, there is no homework (big sigh!), and the days are longer. Have your tween start a summer book list starting in the winter or spring, and you keep one as well – it’s fun to see if there is any overlap. I keep a list as a note on my smart phone. Whenever I come across a book that either my child or I might enjoy, I write it down. When I go to the library, I pull up the list and start checking the books out. Hint: Many public libraries now have online catalogs where you can reserve books from any device, wherever you are. They’ll send you an email or a text when the book comes in – brilliant, thank you dear, clever librarians!
- Bedtime story. Your tween needs a lot of sleep, right? And that all starts in bed, cuddled up, maybe with a pillow or even a stuffed friend (come on, you’re never too old for stuffed friends!). Take ten or twenty minutes when they’re nestled in their beds. Curl up with them and share a book or a story together. A different twist on the traditional bedtime story is to have your tween read some pages from their favorite book to you or to a sibling. This is a fun way to hear how your child’s reading is coming along and to carve out time for sibling bonding. Don’t be surprised if you or your child starts to shut eyes and drift off. Having someone read to you after 7:00 pm can be extremely relaxing!
- Devices are ok – for reading! Let’s face it, devices are everywhere these days. It’s ok if your tween wants to read on a device, they’re reading and that’s the ultimate goal in this mom’s book!
- Start a new family tradition: a weekend morning or evening spent reading. Gather in a common area, get out the favorite pillows and blankets (‘tweens can be very particular about their creature comforts!), put your phones and devices away, get cozy, and read. A fire in the fireplace is an added luxury. So, too, is a picnic blanket with some munchies outside on a lovely day.
If you have tweens in your life, how do you help your child carve out time to simply read?
Leah Lesser is the Communications Director at Barefoot Books and proud mom of two daughters. She loves storytime with my family, running, reading, and decorating cupcakes. Her favorite Barefoot book is The Girl With A Brave Heart.