“When he was younger, I could get him to sit down with a book. Not anymore.” Does this sound familiar? Reading drops off in the teen years, a trend that may be on the rise with the mania for texting, video games, and other high-tech diversions. But there are good reasons to keep teens reading.
Reading Is Vital
Reading helps teenagers deal with hard emotions, according to psychologist Cynthia Magistro. “Not only do stories offer a vocabulary to describe what they’re feeling, but they also give kids a safe place to experience difficult emotions,” she explains. Additionally, reading contributes to school success. Most subjects require good reading skills, and kids who don’t have them fall behind.
For adopted teenagers, reading books about adoption can counteract stereotypes, help them understand their background, and illustrate ways to deal with uncomfortable situations. At this age, advice from parents starts to lose its luster, but a good book may provide a model for coping.
Why Aren’t They Reading?
Some teens don’t enjoy reading because they don’t associate it with pleasure. Lack of early, positive reading experiences is a major cause of “aliteracy” — a term coined by specialists for those who have the ability, but not the desire, to read. Aliterate teenagers view reading as “work” — for learning, not for fun.
Some teenagers perceive books as irrelevant. They just don’t connect with books about families unlike their own. And for reluctant readers, relevance makes a big difference in motivation.
What Parents Can Do
- Be a reader. When kids see you reading, they know you value it.
- Read aloud. Make reading together or listening to books on tape a family activity. You’ll build bonds as well as reading ability.
- Choose culturally relevant books. Adopted teenagers may benefit by reading books about families like their own.
- Help your child select appropriate books. Offer a limited selection and suggest that she read a few pages as well as the copy on the back cover before choosing a book.
- Consider Hi-Lo books. Resembling short novels in size and shape, Hi-Lo books target reluctant readers with high interest but a low reading level. They offer subject matter appropriate for high school and beyond. Try Capstone Press, for a good selection of Hi-Lo fiction books.
It takes effort to keep your teenager reading in this day and age, but it pays off when he chooses a book over television or a trip to the mall. And when you see him coping more effectively with adolescent emotions, credit the book he’s been reading — and buy him another one like it.