Reading To Teenagers

Reading to teenagers has great benefits but convincing them of this and getting them to agree to a reading aloud session is usually a challenge.

Most teenagers don't read as much as they should or as much as we would like them to. Some don't read at all, unless it's required reading for school.

Does this matter? I think it does. Alot. Because the benefits of reading are so incredible and so much deeper than most of us probably realise.

How I Read Aloud To My Teenagers

My sons are now 16 and are probably pretty typical teenagers.

They were avid readers as younger kids but they somehow lost interest around the age of about thirteen, probably because the X-Box, computer and facebook beckoned!

This worries me because I think they're missing out on so much learning and enjoyment.

My daughter is 12 and reads a bit more than her brothers but there are still periods when she doesn't have a book on the go.

So every so often I read aloud to them.

I'd like to say this was a nightly event, eagerly anticipated by all, but it's not. I do it most nights but it has to be planned and executed with great stealth.

It works like this.

When we sit down to dinner in the evening, I casually mention an article I've read in the newspaper that morning. I pick something that's not too long and that I know will be of at least passing interest to my three progeny.

If all goes according to plan, we'll have a bit of a discussion about it as we eat. Then, as the meal is ending, I'll pull the article out and say 'let me just read you a bit of it'.

If I'm lucky, more discussion follows and one of them may even take the article away for further reading.

When the boys were in their early teens I'd sometimes choose a book and make it known that I'd like us all to sit and read together. There was almost always a protest but they know it's better to humour me when it comes to reading.

So I'd read aloud - just a chapter at a time. You wouldn't get them to admit it but I have a sneaking suspicion they enjoyed this as much as I did, especially as we'd often all pile onto my bed to read. We read some brilliant books together like this.

Nowadays I try to look for articles in the newspaper that relate to their interests. This seems to work especially well for the boys. Sometimes I pull up the article in the newspaper's online edition and suggest they read it there or I read it to them.

For example -

  • one son is very interested in sports of all descriptions, especially English Premier League football
  • my other son is interested in science, especially things relating to chemistry and physics

So that's how reading aloud looks in a home with two 16-year-old boys and a 12-year-old girl. Perhaps some of the ideas may work for you if you have a teen who doesn't read much.

Strategies and Troubleshooting

Reading to teenagers requires strategic thinking and a bit of cunning.

Pick your time carefully and plan ahead but also be ready to take advantage of any opportunity that may arise.

Choose your book, short story, poem or newspaper article ahead of time and keep it handy so you can whip it out when an opportunity comes up.

As I've said, I often read to my kids towards the end of our evening meal, while we're all still sitting at the table but have had a chance to talk over the day's events.

Other good ideas are -

  • during a long-distance car trip
  • while your teen is unpacking the dishwasher or doing some other chore
  • while your child's eating breakfast or lunch on the weekend

If your teen argues or protests, you can try -

  • putting a time limit on your reading - "this will only take fifteen minutes"
  • starting to read aloud anyway - often your teen will be drawn in in spite of his protests
  • trying again later
Above all, don't give up! Reading to teenagers is hard work and may seem like a waste of time but it is worth it.

It may not seem like it's worth it when your teen protests and tells you how 'gay' it is but the benefits will show themselves at odd moments, sometimes many years later.

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