Welcome to the beginnings of Tots & Teens Thursdays. If you missed last week’s post, I discussed reading to your tot. This week I am expanding some of those ideas to teenagers & I’m including some new ones.
I’ll be the first to admit that I do not have a teenager in my house. But I did teach middle school for 12 years. These ideas stem from both that experience as well as ingenious parents who shared ideas they used in their homes.
So, how do you encourage your teenager, who might be reluctant (or downright obstinate), to read?
Let’s be honest. It’s safe to say most teenagers are not big readers. Most. They aren’t going to choose to spend their free time engrossed in a book. This is especially true at the middle school level. And especially true for boys. I will say this. The more ownership kids have in what they read, the more likely they are to read it. (Read: Give them choices in what they read when at all possible.)
Here’s the good news. If your child loved to read in their elementary days, that love will more than likely return…eventually.
But, in the interim, there are things you can actively do at home to help promote reading.
1) Model. Model. Model. Your kids need to see YOU reading. Book, newspaper, magazine, Kindle. Doesn’t matter. They just need to see that it is a priority for you. This will not make an immediate impact, but they’ll refer back to it later in life.
2) Go on a hunt for reading material. As a reading teacher, this was key to getting my reluctant readers to read. Find SOMETHING. ANYTHING. they are interested in reading. It might be a reallyyyyyyyy long hunt, but don’t give up. There is bound to a magazine, type of book,or particular author your child would like. I will get a page up soon of titles & authors that have proven to be good starting points on this hunt. Other good sources for reading suggestions? English teachers, librarians (both school & public), your kid’s friends, & your kid’s friends’ parents.
3) Have a reading community in your home. Yes, your teen is going to bock at this. You might even have to force this on them. But if your are reading this prior to your kids being teenagers, start this early. Then it’s just something you do as a family. Ideas straight from parents of middle school kids…
--Have a set family reading time. Everyone sits in the living room together each with their own reading material & reads. Same time. Everyday. For a set period of time. When you first start this, the it might be for just 15 minutes. Gradually work up to 30 or 45 minutes. Maybe bigger chunks of time on the weekends.
--Keep at home library & visit your local library. This doesn’t have to be extensive, but have some books for you & your kids in your house. Kindles & Nooks have made this easy, but I’m guessing if your teen isn’t a reader, he or she doesn’t have one of those. Utilize your public library as well. A plethora of choice awaits there. Remember the importance the role of choice has in your child’s desire to read. (And by the way, the choice doesn’t have to be extensive. Pick 3 or 4 books you have had recommended to you for your teen & let them choose from those.)
--Conduct a family book club. If you find a book that everyone in the family would enjoy reading—or halfway enjoy, as the case my be—read it as a family. Make a reading schedule together. Decide that you all are going to read the first 2 chapters by Thursday night & then instead of reading during your family reading time, you are going to have a book discussion. I know this sounds cheesy & you’re thinking ::Yeah, like my kid is going to discuss anything with me, let alone a book.:: Give it a try. You might just be pleasantly surprised. Think about how much more you enjoy what you are reading when you have someone to discuss it with. You will have to drive the discussion, of course, but the more you do this, the better everyone will get at it. And if a book is too daunting to start with, maybe find a newspaper or online article to use before moving to a book.
The most important thing you can do for a teenager who doesn’t enjoy reading, is to help him or her find their niche. Hunt until you find it. I am a firm believer that those who don’t enjoy (or at least tolerate reading) never found what they like to read. So, be on the look out for magazines about anything your child is interested in. Books by authors their friends are enjoying. Books where the main character plays the same sport your child plays. Check out graphic novels. Anything you can grasp onto to pull your child in. All in hopes of finding something he or she will never put down.