Keeping Tweens and Teens Tuned into Books

Last week author Lezlie Evans shared a great column with us on Raising Readers in an Electronic World. This week, in conjunction with Dawn’s review and giveaway of Lezlie’s book, Who Loves the Little Lamb? we are happy to offer up this column about Keeping Tweens and Teens Tuned into Books. So, read on, and join in the discussion below, but click over to 5 Minutes for Mom to read Dawn’s review and enter to win one of FIVE autographed copies of Who Loves the Little Lamb?

Dr. Michael Bennettt, Ed.D, has dubbed the four powers of greatness as: Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening. These skills greatly contribute to a child’s success in school and throughout his life. Concerning the four powers I say, “Crown reading the King!” Reading rules supreme in my book (no pun intended) because every time a child picks up a book and reads he is developing the other three powers: writing skills, speaking skills, and listening skills. A recent study supports this—the top ranked high school and college students were both read to as children and became readers themselves.

In today’s world full of flashy computer games, instant messaging, and electronic gadgets, it takes a conscientious effort on the part of parents to encourage the reading of books. Researchers recently found the average young person age 8-18 spends nearly 8 hours a day with electronic media. This is not to say all electronics are bad. Many electronics serve good and useful purposes. The key is for parents to monitor and guide teens in the use of electronics and provide opportunities to develop the four powers of greatness.

While introducing your children to reading early in life is the best way to establish a solid foundation in literacy that will last throughout their lives, do not despair if you are starting late. Publishers are catering to teen readers more than ever before. Book production for the tween/teen market is currently the hot spot in children’s publishing, and despite a struggling economy last year, the release of new books for teens was up nearly 10%.

Let me share a few ideas that will aid you in tuning your teens into reading:

  • Make magazines and books accessible. Teens don’t usually like to hang out at the library, so bring the library to them! Check out a stack of books for your teen readers every time you go to the library.
  • Encourage reading for the fun of it and as a free-time activity. By building family activities around reading—like having a picnic followed by reading in the park, taking a family trip to the library and then stopping at the ice cream shop afterward, or taking everyone to the bookstore to pick out a book prior to leaving on your road trip—you will send the message that reading is fun!
  • Recommend books to your tween/teen. Finding the right title that is of interest to your teen is key. When my kids approached their teen years they started asking me for book recommendations. I knew my child’s interests and individual tastes, but not many books for teens. So I went right to my local Young Adult Librarian and asked for advice. Librarians know the hot new books, the most popular series, and which titles will appeal to your child’s interests. Most libraries also have lists of award-winning books and notable books—ask your librarian for these lists.
  • Set the example. Put a book in your hands or let your teen catch you reading. Studies have shown when books are viewed as important to parents, they will be important to the children in the home as well.
  • Read and discuss the books with your teens. This can be a great bonding experience and can open the lines of communication during the challenging teen years. Our discussions helped my children learn how to form and express opinions.
  • Don’t stop reading out loud when your child moves into the tween years. Read with your child at every age and through every stage! Even if it’s just part of a newspaper article or an interesting article found on the Internet, read it to them. A set family reading time will make a difference. On school nights, have a period where there are no electronics (TV or gaming). Encourage everyone to read a book, do homework, or research something they are interested in during this period. Our teens loved to listen while we read out loud from chapter books. You can also ask your teens to read to younger siblings.
  • Finally, offer rewards for reading and applaud your child’s efforts. Initiate reading incentive programs if you’re having a tough time getting your teen to read. One year we set a family summer reading goal and we celebrated our success by a family trip to Busch Gardens. It was a fun family event, but I think we enjoyed the summer reading even more!

Keep in mind that by offering tweens and teens frequent opportunities to develop the four powers of greatness you are aiding in their success at school and in life. Being consistent in your efforts will make all the difference. So remember to have enticing reading materials readily available, talk about what you are reading on a daily basis, demonstrate reading is fun and enjoyable by reading yourself, and create family reading time, activities, and incentives. As you do this you will succeed in keeping your teen tuned into you and to books.

Lezlie Evans is a mother of six and a published children’s book author. Her latest title, Who Loves the Little Lamb?, published by Disney/Hyperion and illustrated by award winning artist, David McPhail, is the story of a mother’s unconditional love.


  1. says

    This is a fantastic post, and I agree with everything written here. However, accomplishing this task of keeping tweens and teens into reading can be much harder than some think. I absolutely think reading aloud to the older children is highly important, there again, a bit tougher than said. They get in their stages where they don’t want to admit to liking what mom does, etc.
    Again, a great post. Renews me to continue to put forth the effort.

  2. says

    I absolutely loved your previous post relating to getting younger children into reading, which I related to as the mom of a 2 year old boy and 3 year old girl. But now, you’ve gone and done it again, as this post hits home for me and my 9 year old son! He happens to be a voracious reader, but I still worry that the time will come that it begins to wane for him (hopefully not!). We still enjoy reading books aloud together (we’re actually attempting Tom Sawyer right now!), and our weekly trips to the library are always successful. He loves putting books on hold with the library online, so that he always has something available that he knows he’ll love.

    Something that I thought of also as I read your piece is a particular piece of advice that I have to keep reminding myself– don’t sweat it if your child wants to read stuff that you don’t classify as “quality” reading. For me, I struggle to hold my comments back when he brings home another ten Star Wars series books or another graphic novel, but I have to remember that any time spent with a book (or magazine or section of the newspaper, even if it’s just the comics) is still reading!

    Thanks for your wonderful contributions to our site, Lezlie!

  3. says

    excellent advice. I still read every night to my 10 year old. It’s our relaxing together time. Sometimes we read a chapter book and other times a short tale. We have books all over the place and plenty of opportunities to read. He does like his electronics though.

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