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Guest Post: 5 Ways to Get Teens to Love Reading

5 Ways To Get Teens To Love Reading 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?
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.
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