The Best Books and Movies for Moms and Tweens

Journalist Paula Bernstein shares some of her favorite coming-of-age stories that set the standard for positive role models in her tweens' lives.
Taryn Degnan Interactive Marketing Manager | Mom of one Categories: Screen Time, We Recommend
Interactive Marketing Manager | Mom of one

This post was contributed by Paula Bernstein as part of our Mother's Day series. We're celebrating awesome moms this week by highlighting the media and tech that helps them be the best parents they can be.

With Mother's Day around the corner, I've been thinking back on all of the moments I've spent with my daughters over the years enjoying our shared love of movies and books. I like to think that, in addition to giving us special time together, these stories impart important life lessons.

Maybe it's my morbid influence, but my tween daughters and I tend to favor coming-of-age stories about children who have experienced a major tragedy. Not only are characters in some of our favorite stories trying to overcome grief or loss, but they are also trying to discover who they are, find a place for themselves in the world, and learn to make the best of trying situations.

"We like reading sad stories," my 11-year-old Jesse said recently.

It's true that many of the books we read involve children in difficult, if not unimaginably sad, situations. August Pullman, the young protagonist of R.J. Palacio's Wonder, for instance, was born with a congenital facial deformity and confronts bullying at his private school.

In Kathryn Erskine's Mockingbird, the story is told from the point of view of a 10-year-old daughter with Asperger's who copes to understand the death of her older brother, who was killed in a school shooting.

Stories like Wonder and Mockingbird help prompt discussions about bullying, peer pressure, and fitting in.

Just as many of our favorite books, including Mockingbird, feature children who have lost a parent, the same is true of some of our favorite movies, including Ella Enchanted, Fly Away Home, The Secret Garden, Freaky Friday, and Akeelah and the Bee. In all of these films, young girls must cope with the loss of a parent and find their own way in the world -- often by overcoming an obstacle or setting a goal and accomplishing it.

Ultimately, I hope these books and movies provide positive role models for my daughters. For instance, I hope that my daughters will be as determined and resilient as Amy, the 13-year-old girl in Fly Away Home, who loses her mother and has to relocate from New Zealand to Canada to live with her estranged father. With his help, Amy teaches orphaned geese how to fly.

I want my daughters to be as inventive, clever, and kind as Ella in Ella Enchanted; as self-confident as Akeelah in Akeelah and the Bee; as open-minded and resourceful as Anna in Freaky Friday; and as strong as Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden.

Paula Bernstein is a freelance journalist and social media specialist. Her writing has appeared in Variety, Fast Company, Parents, Babble, and many other publications. Follow her on Twitter.

Related tags

About Taryn Degnan

As Common Sense Media's Interactive Marketing Manager, Taryn is responsible for growing and engaging our online community (that's you!) She's the voice behind our social media channels and spends her time finding... Read more

Add comment

Sign in or sign up to share your thoughts