A Tale of Two Teens and Their Books

“This book is really good, Mom.”

If this had come from Daughter #1, I wouldn’t have been surprised, but I would have been grateful. Coming home at 4 years of age, she had not been read to as an infant and toddler in her Guatemalan foster home. She honestly didn’t care for books until she was 11 years old and Nancy Drew, Bess, and George introduced her to the world of mysteries. Now she’s hooked and so far this summer is blowing through several YA novels a week. You go girl.

But this comment was from Daughter #2 who came home at the prime book-loving age of 10 months. The one who spent most of her toddler years on my lap with a book in front of us, who would literally read and walk at the same time, bouncing off walls like a pin ball. The one whose vocabulary and comprehension are off the charts on school testing, and who would consume books like they were potato chips.

But now she’s a teen with a phone and a wifi connection. She’s drawn more to the screen than the page. She’ll still pick up a book, but it rarely holds her attention like a her phone does.

That’s why her comment brought me hope.

We know that reading to babies and toddlers is critical to the development of their brain and their language skills. We take them to reading time at the library. We transition from reading to them to listening to them reading, however painful it might be, as we try to meet the 20 minutes of nightly reading required by their elementary school teachers. But when they reach middle school, the pressure is off and we leave them to their own devices. Literally.

But we shouldn’t.

Research shows that there are tangible benefits to our teens continuing to read over the summer months.  Besides being fun, reading:

  • Expands their vocabularies and improves their writing skills – a definite plus when it comes to college admissions tests.
  • Helps them handle complex ideas and expand their knowledge base, useful in a variety of life situations.
  • Expands their horizons as they learn about other people and the world.
  • Shows them that everyone has problems in life and that they’re not alone in the feelings and emotions that are consuming their thoughts.

So know that when we encourage/coerce/bribe our teens to pick up a book, we’re doing it for solid reasons. Stay strong!

In tomorrow’s post I’ll share the steps I’m taking to keep my teens reading this summer. (Fingers crossed!) I hope you’ll join me.