It’s Teen Read Week! What are you reading — and with whom are you reading?

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with many readers this past week at store and library events. One thing that’s struck me: how many parents are reading right alongside their middle grade or young adult readers.

Have you head the recent statistic: 55% of Young Adult fiction buyers are actually adults?

That statistic came up in several discussions I was in. Some parents suggested it is partly because adults just as much as kids love the action, energy, and creative premises — as well as the narratives of hope — that can be found in fiction for young people.

Quite a few parents admitted they are pressed for time. If they can manage to read anything at all, they’d like to be reading the same books that their children are reading. Not necessarily to monitor that reading, but to find common ground, a place to connect. 

Meeting with one particular parent/child book group in Cambridge last week, I saw those connections happening firsthand. In this group, ten readers between the ages of nine and fourteen meet monthly with their parents to discuss a book they all vote on. The librarian tells me this group has been meeting for quite some time. Attendance is regular. Discussion is lively. Parents and their kids participated equally. They did not always share the same opinions.

I felt so privileged to have been invited into this club for an evening, knowing that these may be some of the last books these parents and children read and discuss together. I suspect (since older teens were not attending) at some point schedules become too demanding, or a desire to retreat into one’s own reading choices prevails. I’m not sure.

How long can parent/child book groups last?

The whole idea of reading alongside a parent — of meeting in some enchanted grove built by someone else’s words — is novel to me, pardon the pun. My parents certainly supported my reading obsessions and kept me well-supplied with books. But once I became an independent reader of novels, around the age of seven, I don’t recall them reading these books alongside me, or having discussions about them.

Reading, for me, has always been an intensely private act. I’m sure in my early reading years my mother knew what I was reading, especially since she was buying it or facilitating library trips. In my teen years, I’m not sure if she had any idea of what I was reading, unless it was for school. It just wouldn’t have occurred to me to talk about it.

I suspect that privacy in reading has carried over to my adult life too. I’m a member of two writing groups, but I’ve never joined a book club. Lately, though, I’ve felt that pull. I’ve read some books that got me thinking for weeks and I longed for a good discussion about them, something in real time, with real people.

Watching mothers and fathers bring their kids to book events this past week, seeing them bond over books, has really opened my eyes. As a parent of a kindergartner who’s beginning to sniff out chapter books, I’m more alert to the power of shared reading experiences — and of course, hoping our shared reading might continue for years.

But is that what kids want? Or is that what their parents yearn for?

Readers! Do you and your parents share YA or MG books? 
Were you or are you in a book club together? What do you (or did you) get out of that experience?
Should parents and kids read together for as long as possible? Why or why not?