Parents know how to inspire a love of books in babies and toddlers … Just put them on your lap, and start reading. But as kids get older and go to school, reading can be seen as work rather than fun – and kids, especially teens, may stop reading for pleasure.
Here are seven ways to get teens reading, either again or for the first time:
Find the ‘why’ in YA – YA (young adult) novels tackle the edgy issues teens face and struggle with, from peer pressure and romantic longing to grief and trouble at home or school. Whether they’re personally grappling with these issues or seeking vicarious thrills, teens gravitate toward subject matter that’s relatable. Check the YA bestseller lists for ideas.
Get graphic – Gone are the days when graphic novels were dismissed as comic books. Now recognised as literature, they may be the key to getting some teens hooked on books. They’re available in a wide range of genres – from adventure and fantasy to historical fiction, memoir and biography – so there’s certainly a graphic novel out there to suit your teen’s taste.
Lure them with adult books – Find non-fiction titles on subjects your teen is curious about, such as climate change, race, political corruption or true crime. Check adult non-fiction bestseller lists to see what’s catching fire. Humorous adult books also work (by David Sedaris or Tina Fey, for example), as do horror (Stephen King), mysteries (Agatha Christie), thrillers (James Patterson, John Grisham), fantasy (George R.R. Martin), science fiction (Isaac Asimov), and sports (Michael Lewis).
Give the gift of reading – Hand your teen a gift card from your local bookstore. They’ll discover the treasure-hunt fun of looking for a good book.
Merge movies with books – Hollywood is turning to teen lit for ideas more than ever. Offer your teen the print version to read before or after a big film adaptation comes out, and talk about the similarities and differences between the two.
Try poetry – Novels in verse are a popular trend. All that white space on the page makes them easy to read, and the spare, lyrical approach can really pack a punch. Try Sarah Crossan’s One, Stasia Ward Kehoe’s The Sound of Letting Go, or Ellen Hopkins’ Rumble. Memoirs in verse are taking hold, too; check out Marilyn Nelson’s How I Discovered Poetry.
Let them listen – Spark teens’ interest by getting an audio book to listen to on the way to school or on long drives. Let them download audiobooks to their smartphones. (They won’t risk looking uncool, because they’ll be under headphones or have their earbuds in.)