‘My child used to love reading when they were younger, but they never pick up a book now unless they have to for school. How can I get them to read more?’
We hear this time and again from parents, many of whom were keen bookworms as teenagers themselves. It should come as no surprise that teenagers today spend less time reading than we did at the same age 20/30/40 years ago. There are simply so many more digital distractions competing for their time and attention. But the benefits of reading for pleasure still apply to our tweens and teens, so as parents how can we encourage them to put down their phones and pick up a book instead? Here are a few of our top tips:
Let them see YOU reading
Our teenagers are not the only ones spending more time in front of a screen! Life is busier now than it’s ever been for most families. Even those of us who still read regularly are more likely to pick up a book at bedtime, when our kids might not necessarily be around to bear witness. And yet the simplest way to encourage a regular reading habit is to model it ourselves. Let them see you reading regularly. Have books sitting around the kitchen and other family spaces. Take a book with you when you head out on public transport. It might take a while but modelling a regular reading habit is much more likely to encourage them to read than nagging them to put down their phone and pick up a book!
TALK about books
We are great advocates of regular book chat at home. Talk about the books you’re reading around the dinner table. Ask your children what they’re reading at the moment, what the book is about and how they feel about it. Involve the whole family – what about grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins? What are they reading? You could even start a family book club – ask your kids to suggest a book that everyone reads, then organise a family dinner to talk about it. You might be surprised by how engaging young adult books are for grown ups too, and how thoughtful a discussion you can have as a family on the back of it.
We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again. Our children are NEVER too old to be read to. Reading together is something we all do with our 4-year-olds. But why not with our 14-year-olds? The bedtime routine might be a thing of the past, but there are plenty of other opportunities to share a good book. Why not read together at a mealtime, taking it in turns to read a chapter each evening? Or why not listen to an audiobook together? They are the perfect solution for long car journeys, too! And we firmly believe that kids and grown ups alike get as much from listening to a book being read aloud as they do from reading it themselves.
Let them CHOOSE
It’s important not to discourage your tween or teen from reading something that brings them pleasure. Perhaps they’re re-reading a childhood favourite for the umpteenth time. Great! Any time they spend reading for comfort or pleasure is a good thing – and in time will lead to them discovering new favourites as well. We often hear parents discouraging their older children from reading graphic novels. But graphic novels are an excellent gateway to a regular reading routine. More often than not, they hold as much narrative depth and as many complex characters as a full-length novel. Similarly, try not to put too much pressure on your child to read ‘the classics’ – there’s nothing more likely to turn them off reading altogether than something that they find inaccessible and can’t relate to. There are plenty of brilliant and very relevant new books and authors out there for kids in this age group. Take them to a bookshop and let them choose whatever takes their fancy.
Our new Macaw subscription is the perfect way to get tweens and teens excited about reading again. They get to choose between two brilliant new books each month, plus they become part of our book-loving community via the Macaws online Clubhouse. Every book is accompanied by activity ideas, book club-style questions, a bespoke bookmark, author interviews, facts, jokes and videos, all designed to engage them more fully with what they’re reading and to get them excited about books. Find out more about what inspired our new reading category here and sign up for your subscription here!