How Can I Get My Teenager to Read?

Teenagers… they’re a little more challenging than they were when they were in single figures!

We all try our best, but I frequently have frustrated, worn out parents of teens asking me for the magical cure to make their previously cheerful child recover from their current reading refusal.

At this point, I wouldn’t blame Primary school teachers for feeling a little smug – they did a fantastic job teaching the children to read, but now those same children are at Secondary, it’s all gone awry!

So, what’s changed and how can you fix it?

They are older. Okay, I know I’ve stated the obvious here, but think about it – have you actually made any adjustments for their age? Are you still trying the same author that your child liked five years ago? Or last year? Are you trying to protect your children from horrors and thrillers perceiving your child to still be too young and in need of protection? Pre-teens and teenagers love danger and taking risks – the safest way for them to experience danger and risk-taking is through a book so let them push their boundaries.

They think reading is so uncool! Well, if they’re still reading the same books they read at Primary school, yes it is uncool. If you’re still using their Primary teachers and (I’m sorry…) yourselves as role models, then yes – you are soooooo uncool, like OMG embarrassing! Change the role models, how about Marcus Rashford, Frank Lampard, Georgia Toffolo, Scarlett Curtis, Stacey Dooley, Stormzy, Oti Mabuse, Nish Kumar, Aleesha Dixon, Tom Hardy, Taylor Swift… If you haven’t heard of some of these, you prove the point! Look out for my next blog where I’m going to be looking at the reading habits of certain celebrities.

The books are too difficult/too big. If your child hasn’t reached the fluency stage yet (which happens at a reading-age of approximately 12/13 then they are still concentrating hard on the actual reading itself: decoding, sentence structure and punctuation. It’s only when they reach full fluency that reading becomes almost as subconscious as breathing and they feel like they’re watching a film rather than doing any work. Teenagers are old enough to have this explained to them. Tell them that just like anything, football, gaming, dancing, whatever – practice is the only way to improve. But be clear that the practice will pay off – once they reach fluency it really will be like sitting down and watching TV! Now what self-respecting teenager isn’t attracted to the idea of no work at all! Oh and contrary to popular belief, there are plenty of older children’s books which are nice and short! There are also “Hi-Lo” books which are written for higher aged students with lower reading ages, so if their reading age is younger than their actual age, they don’t have to read “babyish” books. Ask your school librarian for recommendations.

They don’t have as much time as they used to. They don’t have time or you don’t have time? Time management is one of the most useful skills you can teach your child. They have more homework now and they still want to attend their clubs, then there are their friends to play out with. There is time to read, but it needs to be scheduled into their daily plan. Make sure their reading time is also your reading time. If you sit down and read together it makes the calm, relaxed and focused time they need. If you’re zipping about doing the laundry or making dinner, they’ll be distracted and stop reading. This is the best excuse ever to stop the housework, sit down and relax with a good book – and you’re being a brilliant parent doing it. I’m handing it to you on a plate! Take it 😊

They just don’t want to. In order to make reading an attractive proposition, we need to enhance the experience. Make sure the room is clean, tidy, comfy and quiet. Get yourselves a hot chocolate or a cool lemonade, light a scented candle, put out a snack, snuggle up with your pet… anything that makes the time more attractive. Make sure they have plenty of choices of books. If they find a book boring, there needs to be another one to hand. Borrow lots for free from your school or public library. Your teenager doesn’t need to read for long. 10 minutes is enough to start with and then build them up to 20 minutes per day if you can.

They have a new hobby. Excellent! They can read lots of non-fiction books about their hobby to learn as much as possible about it. And I guarantee, no matter how weird their hobby is, there’ll be a fiction book out there with a main character who has the same hobby!

So there you have it. What has changed is your child! They don’t have the same mindset, tastes or attitudes they did last year. We have to let them grow up, no matter how much we want to press the pause button, but we can still guide them. And the fact you have just read this blog shows you want the best for them. You are fabulous and they will appreciate you … eventually.

Good luck! xx

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