How Can I Encourage my Tween or Teen to Read?

Parent Resources  |  Reading and Phonics

For those of us who grew up with a book in our hands — or a magazine or comic, maybe —  it can feel a bit like reading is a fading art. There is a lot of competition for your kid’s attention these days. Screens everywhere, 24 hours a day of entertainment at their fingertips.

It’s a fight to get a phone-free dinner sometimes, so asking for an hour of silent reading might feel like a pipe dream — and maybe it is a pipe dream to imagine your teen willingly handing over video games to snuggle up with a book. With tweens and teens, a lead-by-example approach is often the key.

In fact, a lot of parents we talk to at The Reading School express that they want to encourage more reading at home as well as wanting to read more themselves. We can all be easily pulled away by the allure of screens and information at our digital fingertips.

Good news! These tips will gently encourage your tween or teen to explore the joy of reading, and the whole family approach is great for that grownup brain, too.

Model reading yourself.

Behaviour is learned. By the time we get to the teen stage, we’ve all come up against the truth that they’re learning from us, both good and not so good. They pick up our mannerisms, language, and habits. So making time for reading yourself is the first and easiest way to encourage the “idea” of reading for pleasure. Simply model it. Turn off Netflix. Put your phone on airplane mode. Dig into a book you’ve been meaning to or order somehting new to rekindle your interest.

Let everyone choose what they read.

Reading teachers know: you don’t interfere with a child showing interest in literature of any kind, be it a graphic novel, a news article, or a how-to manual. Don’t bring judgment or “rules” into the culture of reading in your home. Allot a budget for a new book each per month, or plan a biweekly library trip to stock up with something or everyone. Reading is reading. Let them choose what they like!

Make space for boredom.

Sports, homework, part-time jobs…teen life is busy! Kids deserve time to play video games or connect with their friends online, but they also need restful time. Resist the urge to over-schedule family time and leave unstructured time in the calendar where you can. With healthful screentime limits, idle time might encourage your teen to pick up that new book.

Create a ritual.

Just like we add candles, music and luscious smelling bubbles to bathtime, we can create a treasured ritual around reading for our families. With family screen limits in place, look for opportunities for reading time when screens are off. Make a picnic and spread blankets in the backyard. Bake cinnamon buns for a Sunday reading brunch. Sprawl on the family room carpet for a half hour with cocoa before bed. Associating reading with positive feelings and memories goes a long way.

Trade bedtime for reading time.

Enforcing bedtime past the tween years is a battle of wills, and experts suggest that the natural consequence of staying up too late might be a more effective teacher. Enforcing an evening end to screentime is a smart policy, however, given that blue light and stimulation from phones and screens interferes with quality sleep. Allow tweens to naturally drift off while reading, instead. Offering them the chance to “read until you fall asleep” might make reading more attractive than hitting the lights out and encourage a nightly reading routine, naturally.


    How do you encourage reading in your family? Does your tween or teen love to read? Share your experience below!

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