Encourage Teens to Read

Research clearly shows that teens who read (and we mean books, not texts) are more successful. A person who can read well is more likely to perform well in school, graduate from college, and get a higher paying job. Think about it – reading expands a child’s vocabulary, introduces them to different writing styles and techniques, requires them to process complex ideas, and generally exposes them to new ideas and a core of knowledge that covers a wide variety of topics. No other activity builds the vocabulary and comprehension skills needed to do well on college admissions tests as well as reading. Additionally, it can help teens become more empathetic, as they read about topics from another person’s point of view, or even become a better problem-solver, as they discover that everyone has problems in their life and there are many different ways to approach those problems. All of these benefits lead to success. Besides that, research shows that a good book is actually a great stress-reducer!

So, we know that reading is a good activity for our teens… but how do we get them to put down all their gadgets and actually get engrossed in a book? Here are some ideas for parents:

Role model. The more a parent chooses to read for enjoyment, the more likely your teen will, too. If you demonstrate that reading is as fun to you as being on the computer or watching a movie, your teen will incorporate that belief and quite possibly try it themselves.

Focus on what they love! The most important motivator to get teens to read is to find something they are interested in. Some youth love nonfiction, for example, boys may enjoy sports or “how to” books. Other teenagers love fiction, but want stories that focus around certain topics. Kids don’t read to just read. They want something that interests them, so if your child isn’t engaged in reading, don’t give up! Consider what interests your child most and then find books at the library or secondhand bookstore to give your teen some choices. As added encouragement, parents can tie reading with other activities. If a teen is fascinated by racing stories, offer to take him to a race when he finishes the book. If a popular book is being made into a movie, offer to take her to see it if she finishes the book. Another option is to subscribe your teen to a magazine about his or her interest. Magazine articles are short and fun and may spark their interest in other things.

Start your own book club. Suggest that you will read the book of your teen’s choice and set up time where you can talk about it together. This will not only encourage your teen to read, but will open lines of communication between you, allow you an opportunity to share your values in a non-lecturing way, and give you some insight into how your teen thinks. You can take this idea a step further and start a parent-teen book club. Get your teen’s friends and their parents involved in reading together. Meet once a month to discuss the chosen book and get some perspective from the other teens and parents. Make it a social event with food, drinks and laughter.

Check out a cool library together. Libraries are so important because you can offer your child lots of choices for free. If your teen doesn’t seem all that keen on heading to the town library with you, consider its “coolness” factor. Is it small and boring-looking? Consider taking your teen to the nearest college library. They will have a lot more to offer your teen and possibly get them excited about attending college. If they seem interested, visit often. Be sure that the teen knows how to use the library system so they can enjoy this activity by themselves or with friends.

Play audio books in the car. Ok, I know an audio book is not reading. However, it may get your teen involved in a story, which would encourage them to get involved in other stories! Get the first book that is part of a series of novels and play it every time you’re in the car together. If they like it, go check out the second book from the library and offer it to them to read.

Meet at the bookstore. Despite the way your teens roll their eyes at you, they actually do want to spend time with you. Visit the bookstore together. Walk around and see what catches your child’s attention. Pick a few possible books and sit down in the café over a drink to have a one-on-one conversation about the things that interest your teen.

Use technology to your advantage. Teens are very drawn to screens, so use it to their benefit.  Buy them a Nook or Ipad along with some gift cards for purchasing e-books or magazines.

Don’t limit the subject matter. Don’t limit your child in their choice of reading. On the one hand, you may not think vampire sagas or comics are literary masterpieces, but the more your child reads, the more they will be interested in reading, so encourage it in any form. On the other side of that coin, some teen books may seem too deep. A book may portray key teen issues like suicide, teen pregnancy, violence, and drug use. Although this makes many parents feel nervous about exposing their child to such heavy topics, reading about teen problems is very valuable to their critical thinking. Just be sure that the books are age appropriate. As teens read about these situations, they can test out their decision-making skills: What would they do in this situation? What is the right choice? What are the consequences of certain actions or behaviors? It is a good idea to read these types of books at the same time and try talking to your teen about the sensitive subjects.

Instilling a love of reading in your child will open their eyes to so many possibilities – it is well worth the effort.

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