Mid-February: Halfway through sixth grade feels like three roller coaster rides – friend relationships, interests, and school – all at different highs and lows, and changing every day! One big change in our household has been a noticeable decline in reading for pleasure; reading time replaced with more resting and relaxing on top of at least ten hours of sleep a night. While it makes me tired to think about the range of issues they work through, plus increasing intellectual and physical demands from sports and activities, I regret this shift.

I recently read a few graphic novels to help remind me of middle school (however painful!). I read Brave, part of the Berrybrook Middle School Series by Svetlana Chmakova this summer.

New Kid by Jerry Craft, which just won the Newbery Medal, tells the story of Jordan Banks, who moves from a public city school to a suburban private school. As a black boy, he manages both regular middle school and micro-aggressions of a predominantly white school community. 

Guts by Raina Telgemeier shows how Raina navigates severe anxiety at school and at home with her friends, frenemies, family, and therapist. Research shows more and more tweens suffer from depression and anxiety; this comic offers some great lessons on ways to manage what happens in your mind and body.

My all-time most favorite book series is Anne of Green Gables – I loved Anne’s spirit, pride, imagination, and intellect and what it drove her to do and how much those traits opened her to such wonderful relationships. My daughter has never embraced them, not enough magic in them. I read the graphic novel of Anne of Green Gables reluctantly, but it is an endearing interpretation that uses many of the original phrases and vocabulary. While Anne’s life seems far from today’s world, she still struggles with finding her place, confidence in her looks, and comfort with her interests and abilities. 

I picked up Wildheart: The Daring Adventures of John Muir because I wanted to see how his life story and strong ideals would translate into the comic format. While I did learn something, I hope that this story, written about his young life and from his motivation to explore and to advocate for the environment, offers inspiration to young readers. This awkward time does end!

Reading all these books is not necessarily helping me to figure out how to engage my daughter in reading for pleasure again. I hope the recommendations, the books I bring home from the library and leave around, her continued relationship with the cool, young school librarian, and my awareness of time on devices will bring her back to books. I think maybe she is in an in-between time for books, too – not quite wanting more teen content, but having read many of the more popular series, such as Keeper of the Lost Cities. Graphic novels seem to be a great way to understand and to bridge this tween time (for both of us).

2 responses to “If You’re a Parent and…You’re Losing a Tween Reader

  1. Thanks for your summary of the book, Wildheart, it sounds great for nature lovers. I’ll put it on my order list for the library. We recently had a donation of a book, Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol, and I read it last week. I have to say it was laugh-out-loud funny. It is about an “uncool” girl who goes to camp for the first time.

  2. Thanks for that great reflection about a challenging time. Good luck. Sounds like you are doing all the right things to support your daughter. My girls all returned to reading for pleasure in the limited bits of time available in their busy high school lives.

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