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The Summer Reading Role Reversal

An open book with fanciful animation of a pirate and a ship.

My children are taking revenge, and they are wielding my own weapons against me.

Each summer, I give my younger boys “Challenge Books” to read. These books aren’t necessarily more difficult than what they usually read—in fact, sometimes they’re easier—but they're books the boys wouldn’t pick up and read on their own.

Additionally, each Sunday, I demand participation in Forced Family Fun, when one member of the family chooses an activity for everyone to do together.

This past Sunday, my middle son used his Forced Family Fun choice to make me read aloud a “challenge book"he was assigning me—a middle-grade novel all three of them love and have been telling me to read for years.

It’s not that I’m inherently against reading the book. It’s just that there are so many other books on my TBR list. I’m often requesting and bringing home from the library a stack of books, mostly contemporary fiction and occasional non-fiction. I never find myself wandering the house looking for my next book to read—and I certainly don’t do so in my sons’ rooms.

So this book has fallen off my radar. Even though they’ve suggested it again and again. Every year, it seems. But now, they are getting sweet revenge: they will force me to read it.

Honestly, I love this request. I enjoy reading aloud, and I love bonding with my kids over a story. But I don’t let on: I put up a mild fuss and accept the assignment like the Forced Family Fun that it is.

My oldest, who is well-past the target audience for the book and cites War and Peace as one of his favorite novels, is perhaps the most excited to revisit the novel. After I stop for the night, he skips ahead a couple of chapters to read on his own. I completely understand: when I just have a conversation with someone about one of my Top 5 books, I want to immediately go home and open it back up and re-live the joy of it.

It takes about three weeks to finish the book, because we have interruptions, like hosting a high school graduation party and family along with it, and going on vacation. I read in the car as we drive, straining my voice so it carries to my middle son in the third row.

I have fun doing the voices and making the jokes as funny as I can. It's great talking about the book between reading sessions with the kids. There's a debate on whether the main character is actually evil or a good guy. The boys keep insisting he’s a good guy, but I can’t tell if they’re being sincere or just trying to pull my leg, and I have to get to the end to find out.

Truth is, I do like the book. I don’t see the ending coming. I even get choked up at a line but hide it very well so no one knows (which is hard when you’re reading aloud!).

The best part of it all is seeing the traditions I created working in reverse: them sharing with me something they love and that allowing for more family time together. These two storylines—Forced Family Fun and Summer Challenge Books—have dovetailed beautifully. Almost as if there were an author behind it.

Illustration by Timisu on Pixabay.


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