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Start Reading More Challenging Books to Your Children

father reading a book to his two children while his wife relaxes nearby, listening
imtmphoto/Shutterstock

If you’re only reading books to your children that are at their reading level (or you’ve stopped altogether now that they can read on their own), you’re missing out on some of the biggest benefits of read-aloud sessions.

Many parents take a step back once their children start reading independently. We want them to feel proud of their new skill, and don’t want to hinder the process in any way. However, it’s important to keep introducing them to books that are beyond their reading level to expose them to more complex ideas, deeper plot lines, and words they haven’t heard or seen yet.

Here’s how to implement more advanced read-aloud sessions once your child becomes an independent reader.

Let Your Child Lead the Way

It’s important that you still let your child be in charge of his reading journey. Let him pick out the books he wants to read, encouraging him to research the topics he’s interested in. However, you can also search for books that are a step or two above his current reading level. These are the ones you’ll read to him after he’s read the “easier” books on his own.

Don’t push books that your child is not interested in, or that are long and boring. Keep it exciting and fun. As long as it piques your child’s interest, you can add it to the reading list.

Remember that children love challenges. So don’t hold them back—let them fly free in the world of literature.

Navigate Complex Ideas Together

Even though young kids can’t read some stories on their own, such as Harry Potty or Lord of the Rings, they still enjoy hearing these adventurous stories. When you read advanced books out loud, you’re exposing your children to bigger words, exciting characters, and more complex sentence structures. This ultimately helps prepare your children to read these books on their own one day.

Many parents are grateful for the extra time they get once their children can read on their own. But keep in mind that a half-hour of reading together isn’t that much time out of your schedule, especially considering all the benefits. Perhaps cut out some screen time instead, or snuggle up before bedtime, reading the next chapter of an exciting book.

Your Role as “Reader”

If your new reader resists being read to, let them know that you’re there to help them bridge the gap to a broader world of literature. You can explain that you’re the translator, showing them what the advanced books are all about.

Make sure to spend time answering or posing questions about the story, discussing what the difficult words mean, and asking your child what she liked most about this particular chapter or book.

Over time, you both will cherish this time exploring new worlds together.

Engaging with Teens

Yes, you can still read out loud to your teen! Even if your teen is a proficient reader, consider picking topics, they might not usually read, such as poetry, short stories, biographies, or memoirs.

Keep the topics interesting; otherwise your teen will learn to dread this time. Consider taking turns reading chapters, with all members of the family gathering around for “book night.”

Set aside time afterward to discuss the evening’s topics, without the distraction of technology or devices. This will help transform reading night into a more social, interactive experience. Snacks are always a fun bonus, too!


We know that reading to our children has countless benefits, such as exposing them to new language skills, broader ideas, and general concepts about the world. However, this ritual doesn’t have to end once your children can read on their own. Make sure to carve out regular time to read out loud as a family, hopefully continuing this ritual into adolescence and beyond.

Jill Chafin Jill Chafin
Jill Chafin is a freelance writer, aerialist, dancer, food enthusiast, outdoor adventurer, and mama, based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Read Full Bio »

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