3 Ways to Help Older Children Choose Books ~
Written by Amber O’Neal Johnston from Heritage Mom
When my kids were little, selecting books for them was fun. I would pour through booklists and browse the shelves of indie shops eyeing all the titles I planned to get in my next book haul. I’d gather my little ducklings at my feet, knees, arms, and wherever else they’d fit, and I’d share beautiful stories.
Fairy tales and adventures. Folk tales and mysteries. Fantasies and biographies. Each book brought a smile to their faces and a sense of satisfaction to my mama heart.
And then, out of nowhere, my kids started growing up. They learned to read and began to crave more independent literary lives. They had opinions and unique interests, and sometimes they resisted my suggestions more than they appreciated them.
Not knowing how to navigate the transition to raising tween and teen readers, I did what I do best when I’m anxious: I panicked!
I fought against my kids’ choices when they didn’t meet my expectations, and I clung to what was comfortable. In short, I became a control freak, and it didn’t work out too well.
I was unhappy, the kids were unhappy, and everyone’s reading life suffered. It was during this time that I decided that something had to change. Well, honestly, someone had to change, and that someone was me.
I talked to a few moms that I admire, read a couple of books, and took an afternoon at our local coffee shop to think through how I could begin to create a new normal. I now have several years of helping older children choose books under my belt, and I’m happy to pass along some of the ideas that worked best in my home.
3 Ways to Help Older Children Choose Books
1. Prioritize your relationship.
The relationships we cultivate with our children take precedence over all other homeschooling matters. I thought my behavior was justified until I saw the impact my heavy-handed approach was having on my family. I started feeling less connected to the kids as they lost interest in bantering about the books they were reading.
The distance caused by something as seemingly innocent as book choices was surprising to me, and I was motivated to recapture the closeness that we’d always had. I decided that books were nowhere near as important as relationships, and that gave me an opening to apologize to my kids and try something new.
2. Share a mutual joy of books.
In a 1913 article from The Parents’ Review, British educator Charlotte Mason wrote, “There is joy in the home, the incomparable joy of intellectual life, when the child strikes sparks of thought from his parent, the parent drops seeds of reflection in the eager mind of the child; but this kind of happy intercourse can only take place where there is the mutual joy of books.”
This idea of parent and child engaged in a bit of a literary dance, if you will, appeals to me.
Just as my children read the lesson books that I selected, I began to read the leisure books that they preferred. We were quickly able to return to our casual book chats, inside jokes, and cool references as we recaptured shared reading experiences.
3. Take on new roles.
For so long, I was the head librarian, deciding exactly what comes on and off the shelf and when. No one minded, and it worked well until it didn’t. As my kids got older, they needed me to fill other roles.
Now I enjoy poring over book reviews and perusing back covers alongside my children while we chat about the pros and cons of various titles. I don’t mind taking a back seat to become more of a procurement agent, chauffeuring children to the library or bookstore, or helping them process purchases online.
Having a say in what ends up in their reading baskets gives them a sense of ownership over their literary lives. It helps them identify as readers and people who value thinking through the books and characters they choose to spend time with.
Guide your children as you see fit, but leave room for the machinations of their own stories to unfold.
Without judgment, let them meander through books that call to them. Honor your older children as they seek pleasure and comfort inside the pages of a beloved book.
Build freedom into your home library.
Allow room for your child to experience what Pamela Paul and Maria Russo, the authors of How to Raise a Reader, call the “natural, timeless, time-stopping joys of reading.” You’ll be so glad that you did.