(Note to teens: this is written for parents, but if you’ve been dying to get your parent reading books with you, pass it on to them!)
I had a great chat with a parent of teenagers and a teacher (who also has teenagers). We were discussing children’s affinity for or aversion to reading. As a child who practically inhaled books, this was intriguing for me, because I am always fascinated by the answers to this question: what impels people–especially the next generation–to read?
The teacher came up with an excellent strategy for the parent to reinvigorate her daughter’s interest in reading. I’d heard the advice before, but the teacher presented it in a simple way for any parent to tackle a child’s disinterest in reading (or even their own!).
1. Start simple. The teacher mentioned she had started reading The Bar Code Tattoo while her elementary class had quiet reading time. She got so immersed in the book that she eventually bought it. The book was not overly complex, and it is aimed for a 12 and up audience, so it was easy to read and get into (and be interrupted while reading). Middle grade fiction is a great place for tweens and teens to start, because the plots are engaging and characters generally relatable. More mature content is toned down. These books, which often follow middle-school protagonists, can be a perfect meeting place for both a parent and child to begin reading something together.
2. Make it a conversation. Based on the premise of having your own private book club with your child, the goal of talking about a book ensures that you engage in its elements. As you are reading a book that your child is reading at the same time, jot down questions that might start a conversation. Not only will you learn more about your children’s growing perception of the world, you will also be asking their opinion, showing that you value their thought processes and are beginning to view them as an adult. For most middle and high schoolers, this can be a thrilling and invigorating revelation.
3. Pick what interests you and your child! Leave the classics to the English teachers and hit up the new releases in Barnes and Noble. The writing business is more competitive than ever, meaning that what gets sold has been through the fire and is generally pretty awesome. If you’re worried about content, just remember that talking about the tough things a book may offer gives you an opportunity to weigh in on delicate subjects before (or at least in conjunction) with less mature peers. Also, high school media specialists (librarians) and some online articles (Google “teen and parent book clubs”) can also help you identify appropriate books to get started!
And remember, the best way to make a point is to set an example, so go forth and read!