You know that adage “the days are long but the years are short?” My kids are in middle school, and that seems truer every passing day. Finding time to slow down and connect can be such a challenge. One night, I was tentatively navigating tender hearts that had been bruised by the tensions of middle school life: homework, friendship drama and time management challenges. I wracked my brain for something we could do as a family but required no interaction and was not a screen – a hefty order in the 21st century!
And what I came up with was this: story time.
I needed a way to soothe our souls, and bridge that chasm between the middle schoolers and their mom. What book would a 12 year old boy and a 13 year old girl both enjoy? “Farmer Boy” by Laura Ingalls Wilder fit the bill. We had read it when they were much younger. I wasn’t sure how it would go over now, but I beckoned everyone to the couch anyway.
They eyed me with suspicion. “What are we doing?”
I announced, “We are having story time.”
Now, I would like to tell you that there were whoops of glee and appreciative nods of approval. But we are talking about middle-schoolers here, and they were less than receptive. One child sighed and pulled a blanket over his head. The other child rolled her eyes and moaned. Loudly. But they stayed put. I sat down, opened the book and began to read.
Slowly, the mood shifted.
Words poured out of the book and into our imaginations and we began to marvel at what we were reading together. “They walked to school in forty degrees below zero weather?” exclaimed one child. The other cooed in delight at the charming descriptions of baby calves. Soon I had finished the first chapter and paused. “Are you reading more?” asked my son, eyes wide. As I finished the second chapter, they protested. “Read more! What happens next?” However, their eyes were sleepy and it was bedtime. I shooed them upstairs to bed.
They needed to be read to just as much as I needed to read to them. I have always loved reading aloud to my kids. We become calmer and more connected. I plan to continue reading to them in middle school – and maybe beyond? We will see.
But I thought I would share a few of my favorite read aloud books that are good for all ages. I tend to lean towards the older classics because they are such timeless stories to listen to.
I hope you enjoy them and share a few of your own family favorites with us!
- The entire “Little House” series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. A delight to read aloud for so many reasons — do not underestimate the incredible history, adventure and character that you will find in this classic series! It will captivate your entire family. There are 9 books in all, so you will find plenty of story time material here.
- Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty Macdonald. This is a series of short stories that are linked together by a very smart woman by the name of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. With wry humor and scintillating genius, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle designs parenting “cures” to relieve all of the families in her small town of their parenting woes. Because each chapter is really a short story, it is fun to be able to complete an entire story in one reading. There are a total of 5 books of short stories, so you can look forward to some great read-aloud sessions.
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. This story about an orphaned girl navigating her way in a new home is timeless and charming. Mysterious at first, it ends with a beautiful message of hope. The characters and story have enough complexity that they appeal to different ages.