It started the summer before my son’s freshman year in high school. I picked up the book, Jake by Audrey Couloumbis from my daughter’s bookshelf. I don’t know where it came from but none of us had read it and it seemed like a pretty good story. Jake is 10 years old. He and his mother live by themselves and are a pretty self-sufficient unit until his mother has an accident and breaks her leg. The hospital calls Jake’s grandfather as the emergency contact and he comes to stay with them while Jake’s mother heals. Of course, the healing is done by all three of them as the grandfather, who has been distant in Jake’s and his mom’s lives, reconnects with his daughter and grandson.
I declared that summer that we were participating in Family Book Club and would be reading one chapter together each evening, read aloud by me, Mom. Dad sometimes joined, but it was mainly me, freshman boy, and 7th-grade girl. Jake was a really good book. We all enjoyed it. So we continued. Next up was The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart, another very good book we all enjoyed.
Family book club was a success. I loved the stories, but what I loved even more was the time with my children. I wasn’t reminding them to do something. We weren’t negotiating chores, homework, errands, hangouts, etc. On the contrary, we were talking about what we thought might happen next in the story, or how we felt when Jake said he didn’t want his grandfather to stay with them and he could manage himself. It was pleasant. It was relaxing and sometimes lofty. It was enjoyable.
School started and the reading continued. A few books later, high-schooler began to complain. The complaints were many: he doesn’t have time, he’s too old for read aloud, and he has plenty of books to read for school. So I adjust. We put away the books, and I change the name of our evening time together to Ten Minutes with Mom. We sometimes read articles and excerpts of something fun, like the chapter about Snowball the dancing parrot in The Thing with Feathers by Noah Strycker and old favorites. Our now 8th-grade girl recently shared a lovely, interpretive reading of Never Tease a Weasel by Jean Conder Soule and big brother gave a wonderful rendition of Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner, complete with character voiceovers that had little sister and me laughing out loud.
Ten Minutes with Mom is a success. It doesn’t necessarily happen every night, but it is another tool in the toolbox so to speak. I especially love revisiting picture books from the good old days for their brevity, illustrations, and timeless themes. Never tease a weasel. This is very good advice. The weasel will not like it –and teasing isn’t nice. An important and relevant message for middle-schooler, high-schooler, and professional worker-bee alike.