Encouraging Your Teen to Read

Were you one of those kids who hid a flashlight under the pillow to read after bedtime? I was and I actively read all through my teen years. I stopped for a brief period in college (who has time to read in college?) but started reading voraciously again as a young adult and I haven’t stopped yet. Only one of my children was an active reader as a teen, so much that we actually had to ground her for a week from books because it was interfering with her other responsibilities! The other children we needed to encourage reading when they were teens through different methods.

Teens have so many interests, activities, and pressures on them. Even if they were bookworms as preteens, they may not read in their free time. Sports, extracurricular activities, jobs, schoolwork, their social life, and electronic media all take time that they may have used for reading when they were younger. They may find it difficult to make time to read, or they may be uninterested or unmotivated. Find what motivates your teen!

Family rules and habits for all ages:
It is easier to start these rules and habits while your children are young, but they can also be gradually implemented with older children and teens, too.
• Find engaging material – this varies based on personal and familial interests
• Choose books together and read the same texts simultaneously
• Read the books your child or teen is reading in school
• Never say no to book requests
• Visit a local used book store – the proprietors are great resources!
• Park by the bookstore entrance each time you go to the mall and make it a habit to browse on your way in or out of the mall.
• Visit the library at least once each month for a family outing. They often have activities for different age groups. Investigate the community calendar together and decide which activities to attend. While you are there, browse the stacks and bring home a few things!
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Here are some ideas to help encourage your teen to read.
• Put away your electronics (phone, laptop, tablet, etc.) and let your teen see you enjoying a book, newspaper, or magazine at least several times each week. (Reading these mediums is different from internet reading because of the extended length of the content)
• Create electronic media free zones/times in your home. If space allows, set up a room as a den or library devoted to reading and writing. Either way, find a time on the family schedule at least once a week when everyone is home and designate it as reading time. (Don’t forget to find time for family game night, too!) Protect that time and space by turning off all electronic media (except the kindles!), make it a no-cell-phone zone, and keep discussions to a minimum.
• Make reading times and places extra cozy and inviting. If you have a den or home library, set the stage for drop-in reading. Have big cozy chairs for snuggling in, quiet music or complete quiet. If your home is short on extra rooms, you can still have a few special accessories that are pulled out only during reading time. Those big floor pillows for lounging on and super soft fleece blankets can be stored in a closet when not in use for reading.
• Give books as gifts for all occasions. Tie one on top of a birthday present. Stuff them in stockings or present a special one for one of the eight gifts for Hanukkah. They are perfect for graduations at all levels, too.
• Family rule: at least one new book for each movie or video game brought into home
• An old fashioned e-reader eliminates the temptation to hop online for games, surfing, or social media.
• As bedtimes get later, initiate a “book time” before bed. Instead of getting ready for bed 15 or 30 minutes later, allow the children to stay up the additional time if they are in bed reading. For example, if your 6th grader has a 9:00 bedtime, instead of automatically increasing bedtime to 9:30 for 7th grade, up it to 9:15 with an additional 15 minutes of book time. At 9:30 lights out. The consequence of delaying could be a return to 9:00 bedtime (but keep the 15 minutes of book time).

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