Books have long been an important and treasured part of our lives with our children. I remember eagerly reading to Elena before she could even hold her head up on her own. Some of those early board books barely hung on through Eli’s toddler years, so battered and worn down with love were they (I could probably recite Barnyard Banter and MOO, BAA, LA LA LA! by heart still).
We kept reading to Elena long after she could read well on her own, and I never wanted those days to end. As they get older and busier, you realize how little contact you can have with them. Some days those 20 minutes snuggled together with a book was the first chance we had just to sit and be with each other. Mike read through all the Harry Potter series with her, while we tackled whatever caught our fancy.
The day came when our read-aloud days were over. I may have followed her to college with a book, but she was ready. She had her own books to read, and quite frankly, she was ready to have time to herself in those last few minutes before bedtime (and oh, how I get that).
A little over a year has passed since we last read a book together. Then, a few months ago, the heavens parted, angels sang and Elena told me about a book she really enjoyed. Would I like to read it, too? I would, and I did, finishing it in a night. We chatted about it together, and I thought, “I think we could be on to something here!”
And so we’ve morphed into our own little mother-daughter book club. I read something I think she might enjoy and I pass it on to her. She does the same. The result is some really in-depth, amazing conversations with my daughter, and a list of must-read books that are so wonderful I just have to share.
Note: The content in some of these titles are probably a little much for the average 11-year-old. Read them yourself first and decide if your tween is ready for the material. This post contains affiliate links.
Elena’s Picks for Me:
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. My best friend and I read and re-read Lowry’s A Summer to Die obsessively one summer, so I was familiar with the author. Somehow this one slipped past my radar as a kid. Number the Stars tells the lesser known story of the evacuation of Jews from Denmark. Told through the eyes of a 10-year-old girl as she wrestles with what may happen to her Jewish best friend, it’s an age-appropriate introduction into the topic of World War II.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio. August Pullman was born with a facial deformity that he struggles to describe to the reader … “Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” He’s always been homeschooled, but the book opens as he prepares to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep. Told from the perspective of August, his classmates, his sister and parents, you learn how they all struggle with empathy, compassion and kindness, and how difficult it is for August to be what he wants to be – an ordinary kid.
My Picks for Elena:
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Set in our hometown of Indianapolis, Green tells the story of Hazel and Augustus, teenagers who meet in a support group for kids with cancer. Green writes teens with perfection and finds a way to tell their story with honesty, humor and grit. Elena’s re-read this several times and calls herself a John Green superfan now.
Racing in the Rain: My Life as a Dog by Garth Stein. I originally read the grown-up version of this book for my upcoming book club, then realized there was a kids’ version. It tells the same story, of a dog named Enzo. Enzo is the narrator of the story and he shares his love for his family as they are being torn apart by sickness and infighting, as well as his love for his owner and race cars. The kids version is basically the same, just slightly watered down and missing a scene where a teenage family member tries to seduce Enzo’s owner, Danny. When Elena checked it out of her school library, the librarian tucked a few tissues in the pages. “You’ll need these,” she told her … and you totally will, too.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. Eleanor couldn’t stand out in her new school any more if she tried … a tough break for a girl who wants nothing more than to fade into the scenery. The bus rides to and from school start out as pure torture, until her seatmate, Park, gradually opens up to her. He shares his love of comics and music with her, and we watch as they fall head over heels into that wonderful first love we all remember from high school. Like John Green in TFIOS, Rainbow Rowell writes teenagers authentically and compellingly. Like TFIOS, this one deals with some heady stuff for tweens (sex, domestic abuse, bullying). I didn’t actually intend on her reading this one, but she overheard me gushing about it and then squirreled it away in her room and read it in one night! She adored it, though, and it led to some great conversation.
We’d love for you to add to our list! What have you or your kids read lately that we should read and discuss together?