Reading Bedtime Stories to Teens
“Teens” is not a typo. I’m not talking about reading to toddlers, although I could write passionately about the value of reading to little ones. Today I want to challenge your thinking about teens.
When we were raising our kids, very good friends of ours lived down the street. Their three girls matched our oldest three except for their firstborn, who was a year ahead of ours. Because they were a step ahead of us, I watched them closely for cues for our oldest, also a girl. They had a family tradition that I had never seen before: reading books to their teens, which they did every evening during dinner. Being a lover of reading to my children, I was inspired by their idea and encouraged that I could continue reading to my kids beyond their elementary years.
I must admit I did not do this with my older three as I intended. I had three younger ones to whom I was still reading bedtime stories every night, and I just could not add another round of reading to my nightly routine. I was too busy and exhausted.
But when my last two reached their early high school years, I gave it a try. My favorite was reading a chapter of “The Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom every night to my daughters. I would sit on one teen’s bed while she was snuggled in the covers, and I’d read the story out loud. It proved to be a marvelous way to talk about issues of faith, trust, and courage without having to preach to them. Most teens feel like they know it all anyway, so a direct approach is often met with a rolling of the eyes. But reading a story of amazing faith and courage is much less confrontational. It’s also a great way to have some time to be physically close to your teen when they so often want distance.
If your children are in Christian schools, they are probably assigned books like “The Hiding Place” to read for their classes, so I’d encourage you to find other books that will still engage their minds and spark conversations. Remember your teens are exposed to adult information in most every realm, so don’t shy away from reading a book you might enjoy. Here’s a suggestion. Recently I read a book called “Hunting Eichmann,” the story of the Israeli search for the man who masterminded the extermination of the Jews during the Holocaust. It was full of intrigue, suspense, and adventure — and the good guys win. And there was little if any bad language and a great history lesson as a bonus. I remember thinking my sons would have enjoyed this story of war and justice.
Find a way to add reading to your family routine. Like our friends, read one night a week at dinner, read at bedtime with your teen snuggled up in his or her bed, or find another avenue. But choose to be an influence in their lives by controlling some of the information that goes into their brains. The benefits are worth the effort in the present and in the future as the story becomes part of their reservoir of life lessons.
How do you combat the constant influences on your teens from the unrelenting stream of media?