Our beautiful, tween, read-aloud thing
Posted on May 15th, 2013
ll told, The Three and I are reading two books aloud.
The number can creep up on us. Until Peaches was 5, I was only reading one book before bedtime—to Marcel alone at first, but then to Roy, as well. I don’t know how long I thought that could continue because, at some point, Peaches was onto us. The boys were going to bed later and she wasn’t, and how was >that fair, and what we were doing in there anyway, and why wasn’t she getting to do it, too?
So over time, Peaches crept in and things had to be reexamined—like how all four of us were going to fit onto the bed in an equitable manner, for starters, but also just what we were going to read that would suit everyone’s purposes.
And by purposes, I really just mean ages.
Occasionally, one book will speak to my disparate audience. Trenton Lee Stewart’s Mysterious Benedict Society series was one of these. Roy was willing to go back and revisit some of the orphans’ earlier adventures for the benefit of Peaches, but when we approached the third book for at least our second time through, I commissioned Peaches to take that one on independently. Sufficiently motivated, she did, too. And a family friend’s recommendation of a Terry Pratchett series about a preteen witch won over all Three, too. At least two of them have asked when we will start the second book. (Next, I’ve promised them.)
More and more often, however, it would seem to take more than one book to meet the children where they find themselves. Peaches is getting The Secret Garden right now while Marcel hears Lloyd Alexander‘s Taran Wanderer. And Roy? Why, he helps himself to both, of course.
I’ve been pondering the state of our family’s reading since stumbling on a link posted yesterday by writer Jessica Lahey to a piece about the benefits of reading aloud to older children. Over coffee just last month, a friend wondered over her preteen daughters’ continued willingness to read with her at night.
“I don’t think they ever outgrow it,” I told her. I don’t think it was until I was speaking the words that I realized how strongly I believe this to be true.
I have written before about the joy I find in reading to The Three, but I can tell you that I don’t have to twist anyone’s arm to pile up in the bed in order for us to finish another chapter.
“Are we reading tonight?” twelve-year-old Marcel wants to know without fail.
Whatever text we are sharing grounds us in an experience that is communal and peculiarly ours. No one else knows where we are in the book or who these characters are, but within our family whatever book we are currently unspooling offers another opportunity for conversation and speculation, debate and connection.
“I hope that, one day, when I’m too old to read to myself, you’ll read to me,” I told Peaches.
She blinked at me. I think that means she’s considering it. I hope so.∗