We all know that reading is an important skill that our children need to have but actually getting children to read when there are so many other things vying for their attention can be easier said than done. I always used to say I was lucky that my kids love reading and continue to seek out books even now they’re teenagers but the truth is it wasn’t down to luck. In retrospect there were a number of things we did to instill a love of reading in them which has thankfully followed them into their teen years. If your teenager isn’t reading as much as you’d like, it’s not too late. There are a number of things you can do to help instill a love of reading.
Take the pressure off
Firstly, take the pressure off. I can’t state how important this is. Well meaning parents and teachers inadvertently put pressure on kids to read increasingly harder books when they are not ready or simply not interested. If you want your child to continue reading into the teen years, they need to enjoy it! Teenagers don’t enjoy being told or forced to do something that they don’t get pleasure from. Removing the pressure around reading is the most important way for your child to learn the value of reading, what they like, dislike and create agency around their reading journey. For this reason, I’m against forcing children to complete reading records or book reports. It makes reading WORK when reading should be fun!
If you’re concerned that your child isn’t reading enough, talk to them. Don’t force it, instead listen to their reasons why they may not be inclined to read and try and work out solutions together. They may need help accessing the type of books they’re into or they may not be aware of what’s available.
Find the Right Book
Finding the right book is crucial in developing a love of reading. By the time children are in secondary school there is a lot more set reading texts that they have no choice over and may not be interesting to your child. This can cause them to become bored with reading. One way to counter this is to ensure they always have books available to read that they find interesting and pleasurable to read. Help your teenager to choose books that align with their interests and hobbies. For instance, if they love sports, they could try reading books where sport features prominently like Jaz Santos vs. The World or The Run series by Jason Reynolds. They don’t need to stick with fiction either. Reading non-fiction books and biographies about their favorite athletes is another way to keep them engaged with reading. If they love science fiction, they could try reading a dystopian novel. Many book series now have film or TV adaptations. If they’ve watched season 1 of a TV show like Heartstopper, suggest the books to them. It will tide them over until the next season airs and also help reignite that reading spark.
Let them see you reading
Letting your kids see you read for pleasure is another important way to help children see how and where reading fits into our daily lives. Letting them see you make time to read despite be busy and rushed off your feet can help them realise that reading is something that you continue to do as you get older, even as life gets busier. Some teenagers (and parents!) think reading at home is something their children only have to do while they are learning to read, when in actuality, it’s important at all stages of your child’s educational development. Reading expands vocabulary, increases attention and is good for mental health. I personally read as part of my self care practice. My children know this and see me read often which has helped them to see how to fit reading into their own busy lives now they are teenagers.
Create a Reading Routine
Teenagers are busy! Between school, homework, hanging out with friends and doing their hobbies, it doesn’t leave much time to read. If reading isn’t a priority because they don’t enjoy it, it’s easy for reading time to diminish and soon it’s been months since your teenager last picked up a book. Helping them to creating a reading routine is something that you can start at any age but it’s never too late to start. In our house, we read before bed. It has been a part of the bedtime/sleep routine since they were babies and they continue it to this day. It has helped them to develop a reading habit that I hope will follow them to adulthood.
Setting aside a specific time everyday to read, such as before bedtime or before school can help foster a reading habit but if your teenager is too busy or tired on weekdays, a weekly reading session on Saturday or Sunday can also work. Make it fun, give them some snacks and help them find the time in their weekend to set aside to read a good book.
Developing a love for reading can be challenging, but it is essential for teenagers. By taking the pressure off, finding the right book, and creating a reading routine, teenagers can develop a habit of reading that can benefit them in various aspects of their lives. Reading is an excellent way to learn new things, expand your imagination, and have fun. So, pick up a book, and start reading today!