So much is written about getting young children to read: how to introduce letters, ways to encourage early reading, and strategies to develop word fluency and reading comprehension. Parents of toddlers can often be found on the couch or in rocking chairs with board books as pudgy fingers point to colorful pictures. I have my own very cherished memories of wet heads and footie pajamas and favorites like Goodnight Moon, Piggies and every single book Sandra Boynton ever wrote in a softly lit room before bedtime. I miss those sweet bedtime moments.
Eventually, those toddlers grow up and strangely enough, my son and daughter, ages thirteen and ten, are less than likely to snuggle up on my lap these days and read a book with me. Over the years, I’ve watched them grow from beginning readers into independent devourers of entire book series at a time. And, for a voracious reader like myself, nothing is more satisfying than to see your child sacked out on the couch completely engrossed in a book. People often ask me what I’ve done to encourage their reading appetites and while I can’t take all the credit, here are some tips to get your child to continue reading into their Tween and Teen years:
1). Read Their Books First
A few years ago, Teen Lit exploded on the scene with Twilight and The Hunger Games. Because those books came out just before my children would be interested in them, I decided to read both series in the name of “research” (shut up: you know you had a crush on Edward, too). By reading the books before my Tweens asked for them, I was able to determine what age the content would be appropriate for my kids to handle. And, when my son read The Hunger Games series last summer, I was able to have a fun book discussion with him and I looked like the cool mom when I could discuss Katniss and her survival skills.
2). Read A Book Together, Chapter By Chapter
When my son was seven, I made a commitment to read the entire Harry Potter series chapter by chapter out loud with him. On most nights, we read one chapter and we would excitedly discuss the details of Harry’s latest adventure. Yes, it took almost two years and yes, I secretly cursed J.K. and her interminably long chapters in Books Six and Seven but I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. And total bonus: my daughter would often sit in and listen, too, and because of that experience, she’s now obsessed with the wizarding world. If you are excited about reading, your children will be, too.
3). Feed The Beast
My kids aren’t satisfied with a “one and done” book. They prefer books that tell an epic story over a whole series and are never happier when they can sink their teeth into the fourth book of a series. But, books are NOT cheap and it can be very easy to have a spending accident in the aisles of Barnes and Noble if you aren’t careful. Over the years, I have borrowed books from friends and have traded our books so that my kids can keep their appetite satiated. One friend lent me a huge stack of Nancy Drew books when my daughter was obsessed with becoming a detective. By pooling the resources in your neighborhood, you’ll find you have your very own library in your backyard. And, bonus: your kids can discuss books with their friends at the bus stop. What’s not to love about getting a neighborhood excited about reading?
4). Give Them Your Favorite Tween Reads
Remember Sweet Valley High? Every Judy Blume book EVER? If you have your favorite reads from middle and high school in the recesses of your attic, dig them out! My kids get a kick out of reading books from when their mother was younger and I'm not going to lie: I've loved reliving Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield's adventures as my daughter pages through my old Sweet Valley High books. And this counts, too, for your husband's old comic books collecting dust in the attic: comic books are great for teens!
5. Read When Your Tween Reads
Remember when they told you to “sleep when your toddler sleeps”? Well, the same can be said for reading. When you see your Tween flop on the couch with their favorite book, pull yours out and do the same for a little bit. Being present with your Tween or Teen tells them that you support them in not only their reading choices but also who they are right now. Raising a Tween or Teen can be fraught with high emotions (and lots of eye rolling) and books can be a universal language you both speak when the tensions of adolescence are running high.
6). Say Yes To Screen Time
Tweens and Teens are obsessed with their devices and it can be nearly impossible to get them to look up from the warm glow of their app havens. Rather than force them to put their phones down and pick up a book, why not load their books right into their device? Apps like Kindle and iBooks can keep their books right at their fingertips and can allow them to read on the bus or while waiting for you to pick them up from soccer practice. Reward them for the number of pages read in a day or for the most books read in a month. Phones and tablets are here to stay and our Teens and Tweens won’t give them up anytime soon so if you can’t beat ‘em, Kindle them.
If you are looking for a new series for your Teen or Tween, check out our list of favorites below:
Maze Runner- James Dashner
Divergent- Veronica Roth
Wings of Fire- Tui T. Sutherland
Harry Potter- J.K. Rowling
Theodore Boone- John Grisham
Peter and The Starcatchers- Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins