Reading to Your 8-12 Year Old; How to make it fun and easy

It’s common to stop reading to our kids when they start to read fluently by themselves and I did too for a while. But reading to your tween has so many benefits; it teaches them new words, it’s a bonding experience and it’s really fun.

Reading aloud to my 9 year old boy and 12 year old daughter is something we look forward to every night.

Make reading to your 8 to 12 year old fun by picking a book you both enjoy and make it easy by picking the same time every day to read so it becomes part of your routine.

I’ll give you some suggestions for books that we’ve enjoyed reading below.

At What Age do Parents Stop Reading to Kids?

A lot of parents stop reading to their children around 8 years old, when their child can read quite fluently by themselves and doesn’t need help with basic words anymore. Often children start to show less interest in reading picture books and more interest in reading short chapter books and novels at around 8 years old.

It is important for kids to show an independence in their reading and it’s totally normal for them to want to read books themselves around 8 years old.

Should I still Read to my 8 Year Old?

Even though your 8 year old is reading books by themselves now there is still so much value in reading to your 8 year old as well. Maybe you won’t read picture books anymore but can choose a novel to read with them. Set a regular time for reading, maybe at bedtime and read a few pages every night. If you pick the right book it will be something you both really look forward to doing together.

I stopped reading to my older kids when they were about 8, but then I realized I was spending way more time with my younger child who still needed me to read picture books with her, and I wanted a way to connect with my older kids. At first I felt my 10 year old was too old for me to read a book to her and I thought she wouldn’t really want me to read to her, so we started by spending time together reading books independently. She read her book in her head and I read another book (one that she’d recommended to me) in my head. This was a good start but it felt like we weren’t really spending time together.

So we decided to read a book together. She loves fantasy novels so we read a fantasy novel together, a few pages every night. Sometimes she would read aloud to me but mostly I read to her. The book was better than I thought. It had been a while since I’d read a novel and I found myself getting quite engrossed in the story. And my daughter seemed to really love our time reading together as well.

My daughter is now 12 and we still read together 5 nights a week at bedtime, something we both really look forward to. (2 nights a week we have a quick goodnight so that my husband and I have some time reserved to spend together, just the 2 of us).

Tip: It’s a good idea for your child to have other novels that they read by themselves so that the book you’re reading together is only read when you’re together – that way you’re not missing half the story plot. However if your child does read ahead when you’re not there it can also be a great chance for them to consolidate what they’ve read and explain what you’ve missed when you read together again.

What are the Benefits of Reading Aloud to Older Kids?

There are many benefits of reading aloud to your 8 to 12 year old, benefits that I hadn’t realized until we started reading together regularly.

1. It builds a bond

Reading a novel with your tween takes you on a shared journey together. If you’re reading a fantasy novel it takes you both to far away, mystical places. It feels like a special place that’s shared with just you and your child.

It brings you into the world that delights your child and that is something really special.

2. It can help them feel loved by you

Spending time and attention on one child can make them feel really loved by you. I know all our kids love reading together and are quite sad on the nights when we can’t read together. I think this is a mixture of wanting to find out what will happen next in the story, spending time together with a parent, and maybe getting to stay up a little later!!

If your child’s love language is quality time then they will feel extra loved that you have chosen to spend time reading just with them. See the article I’ve written about finding out your child’s love language.

3. It improves their vocabulary

Reading together provides an opportunity for your child to ask about any words that they don’t know the meaning for. My 12 year old is a super reader but she often stops me to ask about a word she doesn’t know… and honestly sometimes I don’t even know the word either so we have to nut it out together. I love that I can help her in this because I remember reading books when I was her age and not knowing certain words, and it would be frustrating when those words would come up again and again.

If your child doesn’t ask about what certain words mean (like my son doesn’t usually), just ask them when you come to a tricky word if they know what it means. If not then you can briefly explain it.

4. They can improve their reading aloud skills

Reading aloud is a skill that you don’t really get to practice much after you turn 8 (because you don’t need to read to your parents anymore for homework). And then you only start reading aloud again once you have your own kids to read to.

I think it’s great to offer your child the option to read to you if they want. My 12 year old daughter occasionally likes to read to me, but my 9 year old son prefers not to (sometimes I ask him to just read a paragraph anyway to help build confidence).

Often your child will compare their fluency in reading aloud to your fluency (which you’ve had a lot longer to perfect), so it’s important to let your child know that they’re doing a great job in reading aloud and that you have had many years of practice and have gotten better over time.

5. It provides regular one on one time

Spending time with young children is easy, they demand your attention most of the time. However as your child gets older they will have their own interests that they pursue on their own. This is all normal and good but it does make it harder to have quality time together with your older child.

Reading together with your 8 to 12 year old is such a fantastic way to schedule in regular one on one time with your child. After you’ve finished reading you can ask them a simple question about their day or about what you’ve just read to connect with them a bit more.

6. It helps to foster a love of reading

Reading is such a fantastic way to improve your skills and knowledge in any area of life. Reading an exciting novel together is such a great way to foster a love of reading in your child. This love of reading will help them greatly at school and also throughout their life.

7. It can teach them important life lessons

If you pick the right books it can help teach your kids important lessons by learning through the mistakes of the characters in the story.

What Books should I Read with my Tween?

Our kids (9 & 12) enjoy fantasy novels where there are other worlds and special powers. Often the main characters in these books are children their own age who become the unlikely hero. These books have twists and turns that you wouldn’t expect as they contain ideas outside of the normal world.

The best books in my opinion have deep truth and insight about the world and ourselves wrapped into the story (like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Knights of Arrethtrae, see below). These books make us aware of our place in the world and inspire us to live a better life.

My children’s favourite fantasy novels are:

The Chronicles of Narnia

My 12 year old read these books countless times since she was about 8. These are the books that first got her into her love of reading. Her all time favourite book is ‘The Last Battle’ which is the last book in the Chronicle of Narnia series (it’s one of my favourites too).

There are 7 books in total in the Narnia series and they are a timeless classic. They were written by CS Lewis in the 1950’s so some of the language is a bit different to how we speak today, but they are still easy to read and understand.

The books are not too long and are a fantastic starting point for an 8 year old. My daughter recommends starting with the first book written (but second book in chronological order) ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’. This book hooks you in more than the first book ‘The Magicians Nephew’ does.

The books are based around 4 siblings who are whisked away into another world. Here they discover not only this new world with mystical creatures but more about themselves and each other.

I love the Narnia series because there are some really deep messages behind it. I often find myself pondering deeper issues related to life when I read these to my kids. There are truths about human character, and about the world around us. There are hidden references to God and the sacrifices he made for the world and people he loves, which are deeply moving.

My son started reading these novels after he watched the movie ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’. Depending on the age of your child you may want to watch this movie first as there is a scene in there with some scary looking characters that you may want to fast forward through.

Harry Potter

Another series that my kids have read over and over again is the Harry Potter series, which they’ve gotten into since watching the first Harry Potter movie.

I haven’t actually read these books with my kids, but my husband has and he’s been quite engrossed in them too.

This series also has 7 books. The first 3 books start are a normal size book, but the last 4 books are each over 600 pages long, which is a big book for an 8 year old!

The Knights of Arrethtrae

This is a new series I’ve recently read with my 12 year old daughter and they have been quite enthralling. Each book is based on the life of a different man or woman who is called to be a knight of the Prince.

These books are fairly short and provide profound insight into the world around us and how people can be easily misled and how to be brave and stick up for what you believe.

I love these books because it teaches my kids (and me) the importance of living for more than what we can see in this world, and how to live for God instead.

I’ve come across some fantastic fantasy novels that I absolutely love, but there are others that I prefer my children don’t read. Common sense media has a list of fantasy novels with ratings for both age and popularity (see here).

Save Money by Borrowing Books before you Buy

Buying books can get expensive and take up a lot of space, especially once your kids start loving reading every night.

I love the library for it’s ease in getting books to read for free and then giving them back so we don’t have to store them long term when we’re done.

The library has made things so super easy these days. I just open the library app on my phone and then search for the book I want (it searches all the libraries in my state) and then I can select what library I want to pick the book up from. Then I’ll get a message letting me know that my book is ready to be collected. So easy!

Books are normally borrowed for 4 weeks, but can easily be extended on the library phone app.

I get an email when my books are nearly due and lately the library has been auto-renewing my books for me. Awesome! In over 10 years of using the library I haven’t yet paid a late fee.

The library is such an awesome free system!

If our kids really love the book/series and want to read it over and over again then we’ll look at buying the series for a birthday or Christmas present (which is what we did with Narnia and Harry Potter).

Sometimes I will read a book picked by my child like Harry Potter or The Books of Beginning, but other time I’ll pick books that I know will have good values for my kids to learn, like Narnia and The Knights of Arrethtrae.

If you pick a book that ends up being a bit boring and your child isn’t enjoying it don’t hesitate to put it down and find a book that you both really enjoy.

How Long Should I Read to my Kids Every Day?

It’s easy to get carried away reading once you’re into an exciting novel and I have read for too long with my kids in the past. I now limit myself to 6 pages and I mark out the pages before I start reading and put the bookmark in, so I don’t accidentally go over.

My son never wants me to stop so I find it super helpful to have a 6 page limit.

I’ve found reading aloud 6 pages to my child at night to be a good amount and it takes us about 10-15 minutes.

We have 3 kids so it takes about 45 minutes at night to read to our kids before bed.

You may want to read more, or less depending on how many kids you have. Start with 6 pages and see how you go.

Should I read to my child or let my child read to me

Start with reading to your child, but ask them often if they want to read that night (but no pressure if they don’t). I think it’s a fantastic way for kids to build their reading aloud skills. Reading aloud is something they don’t get to practice much once they’re over 8 and not reading to you for homework anymore.

Each child will differ in wanting to read aloud or not (my kids both differ). Some kids love having the chance to read aloud and others not so much. Sometimes this depends on their personality and sometimes it depends on whether they think they’re a good reader or not. They will likely not read as fluently as you do as you’ve had a lot more practice and they may not want to do things that they feel they’re not as good at.

Encourage them if they feel this way and remind them how much practice you’ve had in reading. Maybe just ask them to read one paragraph and if that’s all they want to read then that is absolutely fine.

Enjoy the precious moments in reading to your 8 to 12 year old and the connection that it gives you. It won’t be long until they’re a teenager and building a bond now is so important to help get them through the confusing years ahead.