5 Ways To Get Teens To Love Reading

By Samantha Saunders  

As an English teacher I have had parents reveal to me in hushed tones, as though imparting some secret information - "He used to read all the time in primary school. But then he just stopped." Why does this happen, this perceived halting to the reading practices of our youth? When do they stop loving reading?

Let's consider how kids learn to read in primary school. They begin with gaining an understanding of the sounds of the letters, which they blend into words, which then become the written word, which are then multiplied and woven into stories. Eagerly, children bring home their assigned reading books and proudly demonstrate their reading prowess to anyone willing to lend an ear. Progress is recorded and monitored probably through some sort of reading log, and may be charted against the rest of the class. It is a task that must be completed, a skill that must be learned.

The point is that the success and sense of achievement that children feel during this crucial time is as the result of extrinsic motivation. In many cases it is not the love of reading that drives young children to read in their primary years; it is the fact that it pleases their teachers and parents.

Once the process of learning to read has been completed and the skills successfully acquired, kids have nothing to prove. Some kids will read independently with minimal encouragement, a love of reading already intrinsic to their personality. But an assumption is often made that once a child knows how to read, they will continue to do so. Why do we make this assumption? Simply because children can read doesn't mean they will. Remove the monitoring and the reading log and the smiley face stickers, and what do you have? Reading purely for the sake of it.

Once teens reach high school they believe that there is no longer any need to read outside of the classroom. If it's not getting graded, why do it? Many consider it a waste of time. After all, most books have been made into time saving movies.

So how can we guide our teens away from the screen and towards the shelf?

Here's my top 5:

1. Show your kids what reading looks like
You are your teen's most influential role model right? So it makes sense that if we want our teens to pick up a book, then they should see us doing it too. The power of modelling appropriate reading behaviours for our kids is often under-estimated, but if our kids don't see us reading, how can we convince them to pick up a book themselves?

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2. Get the book of the film
Jokes aside, film adaptations of books are a great way of introducing reluctant teen readers to a written text. Choose a film that your teen enjoyed and find the book. Read the book before going to see a new film adaptation. Comparing the book and the film can lead to some great discussion, especially if you have read the book too. Which leads me to...

3. Read the same books
Reading alone can be a very satisfying pastime, but sharing your thoughts on a book with someone else can open up the text in a whole new way. We sit and discuss Masterchef, why not Madame Bovary?

4. Lifestyles of the rich and famous...
Fiction isn't everyone's cup of tea, so why not draw on your teen's interests and choose something non-fiction? Biographical writing is incredibly popular, with every man and his dog scribbling their memoirs. No matter who your child's hero is, they're bound to have written about themselves.

5. Get the audio
Some teens may need a little more coaxing on the journey towards a love of reading. Audiobooks can be used to share great stories with your teen, without the potentially daunting task of having to read the book.

A couple of things that I recommend you don't do:

• Don't try to 'empathize' with your teen by admitting that you don't really like reading either, but they should do it. How can we convince our teens that reading is a valuable pursuit if we don't do it ourselves?

• Don't substitute sitting and reading a physical book (or e-reader) with 'online reading'. Studies have shown that when reading website pages, we don't actually read at all; we scan across the page for the bits that interest us and dismiss the rest.

Initially, getting your teen to read may seem an insurmountable challenge. But be assured that the benefits they will experience from a love of reading will be innumerable and, potentially, life-changing.

Benefits of Early Reading

By Jonathan Zeen Yick Quek  

Teaching your baby to read at a very young age is one of the best ways to allow your child to begin learning independently. Parents who start to teach reading to their babies at an early age is embarking on a crucial stage in their babies' mental development. You will learn that when you teach reading to your baby early, you will improve your child's chances in excelling later in life.

Excelling In School
Teaching your baby to read, and doing so in a fun and pleasurable way, will stimulate your child's brain and help to develop a more sophisticated neural circuitry. Parents who did introduce reading early noted that their children were more likely to excel in their school activities as well as enjoy learning more. This is partly because the children's early reading experience has given them an invaluable ability for word recognition. But more to the point, it has cultivated other higher order thinking skills, such as the use of symbols, which are powerful tools for children to leverage on in their learning at school.

These children who were taught to read as a baby were also observed to have higher self-esteem and confidence levels than those whose parents did not encourage reading to. They tended to have a keener mind, and learn new things very quickly. These are not merely subjective testimonials by parents with vested interests. In fact, scientific research has given credence to these observations. One study by Dolores Durkin entitled Children Who Read Early: Two Longitudinal Studies (1966), showed that not only did the 3-to-5-year-olds who were taught to read early retain a significantly higher reading level than their peers. What's more, 6 years on, these children continued to enjoy an advantage over those who started reading later.

The Reading Curve
There are a few studies which show that children's natural aptitude for reading begins to slow down around the age of 4 years. These same studies found that as a child grows, the task of learning to read becomes progressively more difficult and tiresome. This means that teaching your baby to read at a later age like 5 is doing your child a certain disservice. Your child would have missed the golden opportunity whereby reading is best and most naturally experienced --- the first four years, when the brain is processing its first concepts.

Common sense will tell us that should we leave the teaching of reading till a child enters formal school, then the general learning of the child would be hampered by his inability to read. Imagine this: While other children are busy trying to learn how to read in school, your child who has already learned to read would, instead, be consolidating what he already knows from experience. While other children are struggling with individual words, your child is already confidently breezing through one storybook to another. Your child need not be subjected to the confusion and frustration which his peers are undergoing. Reading is now an area of strength for your kid.


Learning To Read Well
A child may know how to read. But how well can the child read? Two children could very well know how to read, but could in fact be reading at really different levels. The key question is whether a child is able to understand and absorb written information. Thus, learning how to read is just a first step. The next more important step is learning to read well, and that comes with more practice and instruction. This is crucial because a child's reading level is determined by how well the child is able to take in written information. Only when this ability is honed, then can the child acquire general knowledge more effectively.

Reading is said to be the gateway for further knowledge. It is the basic building block of learning for almost all other subjects. Parents must recognize that the earlier a child masters reading, the earlier the child can begin to acquire other areas of knowledge.

The Wonderful Possibilities
Believe you me that children are especially hungry for knowledge, even if it may be limited to specific topics that interest them, such as toys. Imagine how much happier a child would be if he could read up, and learn all about his favorite toys by himself at the age of 5. Compare this child to most children who have not even started to learn to read yet, who are still confined to just admiring the pictures in their storybooks.

Imagine further still: If all children are to master reading earlier, at the baby stage when they have a natural affinity for languages, then the number of children who would grow to develop reading deficiencies later in life would be greatly reduced. That is because the later a child starts to learn to read, the greater the challenge it is for him to pick up the skill, and hence the greater the likelihood of developing a real reading problem.

Also, if all children are to master reading earlier, then this would certainly facilitate the learning of many academic subjects in school. A high reading proficiency would allow a child to understand more easily, as well as understand far more of the materials in his textbooks, inevitably translating to an overall less stressful learning experience at school.

Learning to read early clearly brings many benefits of immeasurable value. Therefore, it is to the greatest advantage of our children when we, as parents, start them reading at an opportune young age.