“I went through a phase in middle school where…I loathed [reading] because I was being forced to do it…I think that books are like amusement parks, and sometimes we have to let the kids choose the rides. And I wasn’t being given that opportunity to ride, to find my groove.” Kwame Alexander, author of The Crossover.
Parents, you may reminisce about when your teen(s) were little and loved to read. As toddlers, they’d climb on your lap with a book and ask you to read … and cuddle. In elementary school, you’d sit with them as they practice reading themselves. Then, as they got older, they fought you about having to read or complained with “It’s boring,” “I don’t like this book,” or “I don’t wanna.”
Reengaging Teens with Reading
As a librarian, I love working with teens and their parents to reengage them with reading. I believe in the saying, “There is a book for every person and a person for every book.” If someone doesn’t enjoy reading, it’s only because they haven’t found the right book.
Here are some of my most successful tips for reengaging teens with books:
Embrace graphic novels! They are a great way to engage teens with pictures they love without being word-heavy. Graphic novels are written for all ages and genres and on all subjects. A newer trend in graphic novels is adaptations of classic novels. Graphic novels are also being recorded in audio versions for those who are visually impaired or prefer listening to their books. Plus, they are downloadable to phones or tablets. This leads me to another tip: Audiobooks are another format for teens to reengage with reading. A lack of interest is often related to a lack of confidence in their reading skills. Encouraging them to follow along with the physical (or digital) book will help improve those skills.
Use video games as a gateway to their reading! There are novels written with gamers in mind. For middle schoolers, try “Last Gamer Standing” by Katie Zhou. For older gamers, try “Warcross” by Marie Lu or “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline. In addition, there are novels adapted from video games such as “The Legend of Zelda” by Akira Himekawa and “Halo: The Fall of Reach” by Eric Nylund.
Let them read what interests them! Try not to limit or censor their reading too much. If a book interests them even a little, let them go for it. The more you restrict their reading, the more they will push against you not to read. If you are concerned about the subject matter of your teen’s book choice, maybe read it yourself. The first time my young teen showed interest in reading was with Ellen Hopkins books. Although I wanted to encourage it, I was apprehensive about the subject matter (Hopkins’ teen daughter’s drug addiction). We read the first book in the series simultaneously, and then she was off on her reading adventure! My mind was put at ease, and she could come to me with questions.
For additional suggestions and references, check out the library’s website. It offers homework help, digital books, recommended reading lists like ALA Teens’ Top Ten and Florida Teen Reads, and databases like NoveList! Librarians at HCPLC also curate lists of recommended books every month geared for teens.
*Photos presented by Hillsborough County Public Library | Originally published in October 2023 of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.