How to Get Teens to Read

By Huntington Learning Center

There are lots of reasons teens stop reading as much as they did at a younger age. Nightly reading is often assigned by elementary teachers as homework, and many parents read to their children during those years. This changes in middle school, however, when it is assumed that students are independent readers who need to read to learn—and not the other way around. Also, some teens never have grasped reading well, and would much rather do other things. 

How can you encourage your teen to read during middle and high school (and beyond)? Here are a few tips to help your teen get into (or back into) reading

  • Choose to read yourself. It can be hard to get teens off their smartphones, where the lure of instant access to games, social media and the internet is ever-present. If you’re always scrolling through your phone, however, it’s going to be hard to convince your teen that he or she should not. Set the phone down, pick up something to read and let your teen see you doing so. 
  • Have your teen read to younger siblings. The benefits of reading aloud are well documented, both for the reader and the person listening. If your teen has younger brothers and/or sisters who are learning to read, ask him or her to do the out-loud reading sometimes. 
  • Visit the library and the bookstore. Continue to make regular library visits part of your family routine, and have your teen check out events and clubs that the library has going on. Talk about new releases that interest you and books that you’ve treasured, and reserve them for checkout. Give books as gifts. 
  • Try different genres and styles. Any reading is good reading. If your teen doesn’t gravitate toward nonfiction, how about fiction? If novels aren’t capturing his or her interest, suggest comic books or graphic novels. Get the guidance of a librarian or bookstore employee, who are skilled at enticing readers of all ages with good book choices. 
  • Pick a family book to read. This works well at any age, but reading a book with your teen could give you something to talk about and bond over—and why not make those chats into something fun like a coffee outing, a walk or a hike? 
  • Correct any problems. If reading is overly challenging for your teen, chances are, he or she will not choose to do it during any free time. Talk with teachers and get your teen the individualized assistance necessary to help him or her acquire and strengthen those reading building blocks. When reading becomes easier, your other efforts to promote it will be more successful. 
  • Don’t force it. Be encouraging, but don’t panic if your teen isn’t a voracious reader. Many teens are busy, focusing on school, extracurricular activities and their social lives. Reading might temporarily take a backseat, but if you show your teen through your actions that reading has so much to offer, he or she might come back around later on. 

With so many other options competing for their time, many teens don’t continue reading on their own. However, reading is integral to learning and will always be important while your teen is a student—plus, it is an activity that can bring your teen happiness for the rest of his or her life. Be persistent and patient with your support, which will make a difference in getting your teen to choose reading as an enjoyable pastime.