Five Books to Read Alongside Your Kids


In a perfect world, we are reading what our kids read, watching what our kids watch, and listening to the music they love, but the reality is that our preferences don’t always align. I, for example, prefer Mad Men reruns over anything on the Disney Channel and I could tell you nothing about current popular music. I’ve officially reached the age where no one on the radio is recognizable to me.

There are endless opportunities to separate ourselves from our kids, from social activities to overcommitted schedules, so we must make an effort to find moments to connect with them. Reading the same book not only creates a shared experience, but it also provides an opportunity for meaningful conversation.

For the book-loving mom who seeks to connect with her kid, here are five books to read alongside your preteen or teen:

1. Stay Where You Are and Then Leave by John Boyne (ages 10-14)

Known for The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, John Boyne strikes gold again with his age-appropriate spotlight on real-world issues. Stay Where You Are and Then Leave is set in World War I London and tackles the difficult topic of shell shock, what we know today as post-traumatic stress disorder. The protagonist is Alfie, an eleven-year-old who doesn’t understand why his father went to war and, furthermore, why his mother won’t answer questions about him. Just when he’s certain his father is dead, Alfie learns that not only is he alive, but he’s in a nearby hospital.

This book deals gently with PTSD, as well as how hard it can be for parents to open up to their kids about difficult subjects.


2. Paperboy by local author Vince Vawter (ages 11-14)

Set in the summer of 1959 Memphis, Little Man takes over his friend’s paper route for a month, and while he doesn’t mind doing a favor, he is anxious about meeting new people on account of his heavy stutter. Making matters worse, Little Man breaks the rules by interacting with the neighborhood junkman, Ara T, who ends up stealing his pocketknife. Other than heartwarming moments he shares with their live-in, African American housekeeper, Mam, the only solace Little Man finds from his troubled summer are the weekly conversations with the fascinating intellectual, Mr. Spiro.

Paperboy is a coming of age story that brings to the surface matters of physical disabilities, self-confidence, the Civil Rights Movement, and finding one’s place in a confusing world.


3. Wonder by R.J. Palacio (ages 11-14)

Ten-year-old Auggie Pullman lives with rare facial deformity, a condition that required dozens of surgeries and treatments to help his vision and speech. With the start of middle school comes Auggie’s transition from homeschooling to being center stage at a local private school. Naturally, all eyes are on him. Not only does Auggie have to navigate the academic expectations of middle school, he has to discern who is a real friend and who is not.

Wonder is a moving story about how far we’ll go for those we care about. It deals delicately with issues of loneliness, bullying, and courage. Wonder was well-received by critics everywhere and will make its appearance on the big screen in November. Read this gem before seeing the movie!


4. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (ages 14-17)

Set in 1941, Between Shades of Gray tells a heart-wrenching story about a family separated by the Soviet deportations of Lithuania. One unsuspecting night, secret police invade the Vilkas’ home and send fifteen-year-old Lina, with her mother and brother, to a prison camp in Siberia. Her father is sentenced to death elsewhere. Not knowing what will become of them, Lina efforts to send messages to her father from captivity with the hope that they can all escape and live. Authored by the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee, Between Shades of Gray gives a unique historical glimpse into what it was like for hundreds of thousands of people during Stalin’s attack on the Baltic Region.

This tender book tackles the challenging topics of genocide and the struggle of a family within it. While this era in history is typically punctuated by stories of the Holocaust, Between Shades of Gray offers a forgotten voice. Due to its content, this crossover novel is best suited to mature teens and fans of historical fiction.

5. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (ages 16+)

If you are the parent of a teenager, then chances are you’re a child of the ’80s – that magical age of general awesomeness. If you struggle to fully indoctrinate your child with pop culture from the ’80s, Ready Player One can help.

Set in 2044, when the world is fraught with climate and economic disaster, everyone is miserable on Earth. In the Oasis, however, all is well. Created by James Halliday, a Steve Jobs-esque billionaire and ’80s fanatic, the Oasis is a virtual reality utopia where millions of people go each day to work and play. Upon his death, Halliday announced that he hid an Easter Egg, a hidden gem that, once found, would award his entire fortune to its finder. High schooler and narrator Wade Watts is on a journey alongside thousands of others to find Halliday’s Easter Egg and win the keys to the Oasis.

Though it seems Ready Player One would only interest Science Fiction fans, its appeal is widespread. From ’80s junkies and video gamers to bookworms who love a fast-paced, heart-pounding adventure, Ready Player One will unite parents and teens over a binge-reading weekend. Like Wonder, this book is also coming to theaters

Which books have you enjoyed reading alongside your preteen or teen? Share with us by leaving a comment!


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