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Teenagers and Reading

By Reading is Fundamental
Published: July 28, 2009

Perhaps the teenager in your family was once an avid reader, but now hardly ever opens a book, or perhaps your child never liked reading in the first place.

You know that reading is important, and you obviously want to make sure that your teenager grows into adulthood with all the skills he or she needs to succeed.

What can you do?

In this article, RIF suggests how parents can help their teenagers decide for themselves that reading is important to their lives.

With that in mind, half of this article speaks directly to young people.  We encourage you to share it with the teens in your family.

Try to Avoid…

Before we list ways to encourage teen reading that do work, here are a few tactics that don’t work:

  • Pressuring, nagging, or bribing. Encourage your kids, but don’t hound them.
  • Criticizing what your teens read. Explain what troubles you about certain types of reading materials after reading them yourself.  Forbid as little as possible.  And whenever you can, accept differences of opinion as just that.
  • Lavishing too much praise. If you catch your youngster reading, show interest, but don’t make a big deal out of it.  Teens need to know that they’re reading for their own pleasure—not for your approval.

Ways to Encourage Teens to Read

Click here for a list of tips on how you can encourage your teenager to read.

Reading: What’s In It for Teenagers?

The following suggest ideas for teens from RIF.

If you’re a teenager who has lost interest in reading or never liked it much, this is for you.

We’re about to make a pitch for reading—reading things that interest you, at your own pace, apart from schoolwork and other obligations.

Why read?
People who like to read do it because reading does something for them.  It sends chills down their spine, brings tears to their eyes, or turns on the lightbulb in their brain.

And, let’s face it:  they need reading, just as you do.  You need reading now for school, and you’re going to need it even more later on, when you take on a job and other adult responsibilities.  Good reading skills are a must.  Ask any employer!

So, besides the practical reasons, what’s in it for you?  Consider the possibilities.  Through reading you can:

  • Become an expert. An expert on any subject you like—from sports stats to spelunking, coins to carburetors, or anything in between.
  • Live dangerously. Through reading you can share the challenges, fears, thrills, and achievements of those you’re reading about without the risk.
  • Have a few laughs. Sit down with a book by your favorite stand-up comedian, a collection of jokes or cartoons, or a humor magazine.
  • See the world. Without leaving your room, you can visit places that fascinate you.
  • Travel through time. Explore the frontiers of the Old West or the frontiers of space.  Historical fiction and science fiction move you back and forth in time.
  • Use your brains. Solve a mystery by figuring out whodunit, outwit a crafty villain, or think yourself out of a perilous situation.  Your first clue:  look up Mysteries in the library catalog or ask for detective fiction at a bookstore.
  • Get some free advice. Lots of novels feature teenage characters who have problems and pressures like the ones you’re dealing with.  Check out the Young Adult section of the library or bookstore.
  • Discover new interests. Through reading, you may develop an interest in something you knew nothing about before.
  • Find a cause. Get smart on an issue that matters to you.  Read about people and organizations that support your cause, and get involved.
  • Escape. Noise, tension, or boredom getting you down?  Give yourself a break.  Leave everything behind as you escape into a book.
  • Grow up. If you find that you’re outgrowing some of the books and magazines written for teens, ask to borrow some of the books and magazines your parents are reading.

How Can You Find Books that Interest You?
What they say is true:  the more you read, the better you read.  In other words, stepping up the reading you do for yourself will make other reading tasks less of a chore.

So, give reading another chance.  Here are some pointers for finding the kinds of books that will interest you personally:

  • Decide what you’re in the mood for. High adventure?  Romance?  Perhaps you enjoyed a recent movie or TV mini-series; chances are it was based on a book you’d enjoy also.
  • Ask around. Ask friends, a favorite teacher, or your coach to suggest books they enjoyed.
  • Check out the library. It won’t cost you anything, and the choice is virtually unlimited.  Don’t be shy about asking a librarian a question like, Do you have any books on rock music?
  • Browse in a bookstore. Find the section that interests you—fantasy, cars, computers, or whatever.  Treat yourself to an inexpensive paperback, or just have a look around.  And don’t overlook used bookstores.  They are treasure troves for those who like to dig.
  • Consult a list of books other teenagers have enjoyed. Ask for a book list at your school or public library, or write for your own.
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover. What you see on the cover is not necessarily what you get.  Read the short reviews printed inside a dust jacket, or skim the first chapter to find out what a book is really about.
  • Try a few pages. If the books not for you, put it aside and try another, until you find a winner.
  • Read at your own pace. Reading isn’t a contest.  So what if you read slowly or skip words here and there?  If you’re interested, you’ll read to the end, and that’s what counts.  And you’ll probably find yourself picking up speed along the way.
  • Let one good thing lead to another. When you read something that really speaks to you, you may be sorry to have it end.  But the end is never really the end for a person who reads.  You can always open another book, and another, and another.

Visit RIF.org for more tips and information on helping children discover the joy of reading.

To RIF Reading Planet

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The Children’s Book Review, named one of the ALSC (Association for Library Service to Children) Great Web Sites for Kids, is a resource devoted to children’s literacy. We publish reviews and book lists of the best books for kids of all ages. We also produce author and illustrator interviews and share literacy based articles that help parents, grandparents, teachers and librarians to grow readers. This article was written and provided by one of TCBR's regular contributors.

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