How I’m Trying to Keep My Teens Reading Over the Summer Months

In yesterday’s post I shared the reading challenges we face in our family and why it’s important to keep teens reading over the summer. Today I’m sharing steps I’m taking to do just that. So, to encourage my teens to read, I’m going to:

  1. Let them see me reading. My night stand is piled high with books, and I’ve got a few others scattered here and there. But I let my days get too busy to actually sit down and read. When I do have time for a break, I regrettably reach for my phone. When my teens see me opting to scroll instead of read, it’s natural that they make the same choice. I need to change the message and reach for a book instead; I need to be intentional about making time to read during the day, and not after they’re already asleep. By doing so, I’ll be modeling the behavior I want to see in them. I’ll be influencing them.
  2. Limit screen time—theirs and mine. I’m stunned by how much time my daughters can spend on their phones scrolling Instagram or playing 2048. But, to be honest, I’m just as bad with Facebook. We all need an adjustment. I’m going to set aside some mandated screen-free time each day to encourage us all to read more. Wish us luck!
  3. Ask them about what they’re reading. This might be a quick conversation in the car, or a lingering one at the local coffee shop. I’ll go beyond, “Wow, you’ve read that much already?!” to probing questions about the characters, setting, plot, author, and what she does/doesn’t like about book.
  4. Schedule regular and leisurely trips to the library or bookstore. I’m going to make this a weekly outing and give them plenty of time to browse the shelves and check out new treasures. I will not rush them so that I can get on to the next errand. I’ll encourage them to spend their gift cards (a-hem) and to take photos of books they may want to get the next time.
  5. Not shame them on what they’re choosing to read. As long as it falls within our family values, I’ll keep my opinion to myself. Make-up tips and celebrity profiles are not my cup of tea, but they’re my daughter’s fascination of the moment. And Graphic Novels do count as reading. ]I’ll refrain from eye rolls and under-my-breath comments and listen to what she tells me she’s read. I will ask follow-up questions. I will show interest in the books that interest her. See #3 above.
  6. Read a movie. We’re excited for the film release of R.J. Palacio’s Wonder later this fall. We’ve all read the book and if you haven’t, you should. Until then, we’ll search for books turned movies since we’ve learned that comparing characters and plot twists in a book vs. a movie can be a delightful way to spend an evening. Plus it helps keep our teens’ critical thinking skills sharp over the summer.
  7. Encourage get-togethers with book-loving friends who are willing to attend library teen events with my teens.
  8. Read to them. This is undoubtedly the hardest, but evidence suggests that parents should continue to read aloud to older children, even tweens and teens. A child’s reading level and listening level don’t balance out until the 8th grade, so they can better understand complicated plots read to them, than read by them. This stokes their interest in reading more. Reading aloud also stimulates vocabulary growth since books contain 50% more rare words than television or conversation. And reading together provides quality time for teens and their parents. For inspiration, I highly recommend The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared, by Alice Ozma, a delightful memoir of a girl and her father who read to her every night until she left for college. See my review on the R&R Resources page. Still not convinced? Check out this article.
  9. Introduce them to books on tape. I confess we’ve not given books on tape a serious try, but we’re about to. Our next trip to the library will include a stop at the BOT section in the hopes that we can agree on a title to listen to on our next road trip. My secret hope is that this might be a new strategy to help Daughter #2, say, clean her room?
  10. Download books onto their E-Reader. I’m adding this one for good measure since my husband is the only Kindle reader in our house. But he loves it when I surprise him with a new download. If I hear an interview or come across something that I think he might be interested in, I just go ahead and download it for him. (Easiest gift shopping ever.) If your teen prefers an electronic reading devise to a book, why not surprise them by doing the same? Also, library e-loans are great ways to supplement your teen’s e-library.

I hope these suggestions spark some ideas and inspiration for you and your teens. I’d love to hear about your family’s relationship with books. And if you have any additional ideas, please share them here!