By: Lisa Wyckoff
My kids used to love to read books. One of our weekly errands was a trip to the local library so they could pick out books. We would load up our library bag with every picture/chapter/tween book we could find. Then, they would plow through those books as fast as they could.
They loved reading books.
When they were little.
Now, you know what they love reading?
Their phones. Snapchat and Instagram. They love playing video games and making TikToks.
Do you know what they don’t love anymore? Books.
As parents, we know the numerous benefits of reading to our children as toddlers. But, did you know that reading as a teen is just as important as when they were toddlers? That is why there are reading standards, for every grade level, until they graduate.
According to the Harvard Business Review that in addition to being educational, “…reading fiction predicts increased social acuity and a sharper ability to comprehend other people’s motivations.”
According to my teenager (who used to LOVE reading)” I hate reading because of all the terrible books they make us read in school. Books are so boring.”
So, we know how important reading is for our teens, but we also know how difficult it is to get them to put down the phone (or controller) and pick up a book.
Ten ways to motivate your teen to read books
1. Figure out their genre
Pay attention to the genre of TV shows or movies that your teen watches then try to find books in similar genres. Is your teen into true crime shows? Go to the library (or Amazon) and find some true crime books. Does your teen have a hobby they love? Pick up a magazine on the subject. Reading does not have to just be from a book.
2. Listen to audiobooks
Find an audiobook that is interesting (again, get to know your teen’s genre) and listen to it in the car. They may not be reading words, but it is still all about listening to the storytelling and being able to visualize what is happening. Those are both skills needed for comprehension.
3. Books on the phone
If you cannot get your teen to put down the phone and pick up a book, then download a book onto their phone. There are tons of resources for ebooks available, just do a quick Google search. It sounds like a win-win to me!
4. Share what you are reading
I recently read a book that I loved and I shared a few sections with my teen. Then, guess what? She decided to read the book herself.
5. Get others involved
Ask your teen to invite a friend (and the friend’s mom) to read a book. Then, go to a local coffee shop (or someone’s house) and discuss the book. Anytime you can include your teen’s friends they will be more receptive. (remember, you may have to reach out to the friend’s parents…it may not be ‘cool’ to have your teen start a book chat!)
6. Set aside time for reading
Have a set time that phones (or any screen) are put away (maybe right before bed). Your child may be so bored with no screen, that there is nothing to do besides pick up a book!
7. Model the behavior
If your child sees you reading and talking about a book, then they will be more likely to engage in the behavior. It is difficult to get your teen to put down the phone and pick up a book if you are not doing it too.
8. Watch the movie
So many movies are based on a book. Do a quick Google search and find a movie that your teen likes and then pick up the book. They say the book is always better than the movie, talk to your teen and see if they agree.
9. Listen to a podcast
I know this isn’t exactly reading, but it is very similar to audiobooks. There are SO MANY unbelievable podcasts out there (did you know Tiger Kingstarted as a podcast?!) Start by listening to podcasts in the car or encourage your teen to listen to them. In order to understand a podcast, you have to be able to picture the story in your mind and pay close attention, very similar to the skills needed in reading. Podcasts can also open the door to finding your teen’s genre of interest.
10. Watch videos with the closed caption on
If your teen struggles with reading, this is a great strategy. Did you ever notice that if the closed caption is on while you are watching TV, you find yourself reading the words while you listen? (closed caption got me through Game of Thrones!) While watching TV, a movie, or even YouTube turn the closed caption on. This will expose your teen to reading without even realizing it (it is kind of like the old throw broccoli in the brownie mix trick!)
Although I cannot guarantee these tips will make your teen want to stay home every Friday night and snuggle up on the couch next to you with a great book, but a mom can dream, right?