Reading with the Teen

Every job has its occupational hazards. For librarian Rachée Fagg, it manifested in reading with her own daughter. Find out which classic piece of kid lit righted the ship.

My teen is . . . a teen. The Bee does her own thing, texting with friends, curled up with a notebook, scribbling the latest chapter in her epic story or doing some complicated thing on the computer that makes me wish I had paid more attention to the typing lessons offered at school. She’s mostly independent and mostly hidden in her room until we wind down for the evening and then, then it’s time. We grab the book, curl up together and the words are for her.

When The Bee was younger, we read together all of the time. Bedtime would be a chapter from Ramona, a favorite picture book or the continuing, never-ending story I made up that would make her giggle and ask for more. As The Bee got older our roles reversed and she would read to me, sounding out words, forming sentences and looking pleased as those jumbles of letters clicked. When I started at the library I would bring home piles of books and The Bee was my audience, listening to book after book and helping me practice.

Then one day, the words for other people. Storytime was a job, something I did twice a week at the library and the occasional outreach, just one more task during the day. The bedtime routine for The Bee got shorter and shorter until eventually it stopped. She would practice reading as I cooked dinner or with my mom as I was rushing to my other job or wiped from my day. I would listen with one ear as she made her way through the words with an occasional muttering about how well she was doing or a slight correction. She would ask for stories but they just wouldn’t come. I would drift off as I read a few pages from a book, shaken awake by a grumpy child who would demand I stay up and who eventually told me she didn’t want a story. The never-ending story? Ended. I was never able to grab the right words to make a story that made her giggle.

How was I not able to share words with my kid? I often joked I was the Ollivander of books, matching the best book for each kid, including the ones who were labeled as “not liking books,” not share words with my kid? I spend the day matching the right book with kids, sharing words with littles, yet my daughter was left to fend for herself.

The shoemaker’s children has no shoes and the library lady’s daughter had no words.

When The Bee spied my copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory she asked if I would read some of it with her. To her. And I did. As The Bee curled up next to me, she closed her eyes and listened as I read about Charlie Bucket and the wonders of a mysterious chocolate factory. She listened and I read and for a moment she wasn’t a teen pulling away to do some adult thing, but my partner in books, eager to know what happened next.

Rachée Fagg is a Delaware County, PA mom. This post was adapted from her blog, Say It Rah-shay, and inspired by the 50th anniversary of Roald Dahl's classic kid lit, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.