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9 Ways to Get Teens Reading

Practical ideas to help lure your kids back to books.

Parents know how to inspire a love of books in babies and toddlers: Just put 'em on your lap, and start reading. But as kids get older and go to school, reading can be seen as work rather than fun -- and kids, especially teens, may stop reading for pleasure. Here are nine ways to get teens reading, either again or for the first time.

  • Find the "why" in YA. YA (young adult) novels tackle the edgy issues teens struggle with, from peer pressure and romantic longing to grief and trouble at home or school. Whether they're personally grappling with these issues or seeking vicarious thrills, teens gravitate toward subject matter that's relatable. Check the YA bestseller lists and our book reviews for ideas.
  • Merge movies with books. Hollywood is turning to teen lit for ideas more than ever. Offer your teen the print version to read before or after a big film adaptation comes out, and talk about the similarities and differences between the two.
  • Get graphic. Gone are the days when graphic novels were dismissed as comic books. Now recognized as literature, they may be the key to getting some teens hooked on books. They're available in a wide range of genres -- from adventure and fantasy to historical fiction, memoir, and biography -- so certainly there's a graphic novel out there to suit your teen's taste. See our editors' picks for Graphic Novels and Graphic Novels That Teach History.
  • Lure 'em with adult books. Find nonfiction titles on subjects your teen's curious about, such as climate change, race, political corruption, or true crime. Check adult nonfiction bestseller lists to see what's catching fire. Funny adult books also work (by David Sedaris or Tina Fey, for example), as do horror (Stephen King), mysteries (Agatha Christie), thrillers (James Patterson, John Grisham), fantasy (George R.R. Martin), science fiction (Isaac Asimov), and sports (Michael Lewis).
  • Try poetry. Novels in verse are a popular trend. All that white space on the page makes them easy to read, and the spare, lyrical approach can really pack a punch. Try Sarah Crossan's One, Stasia Ward Kehoe's The Sound of Letting Go, or Ellen Hopkins' Rumble. Memoirs in verse are taking hold, too; check out Marilyn Nelson's How I Discovered Poetry.
  • Let them listen. Spark teens' interest by getting an audio book to listen to on the way to school or on long drives. Let them download audiobooks to their smartphones. (They won't risk looking uncool, because they'll be under headphones or have their earbuds in.)
  • Model reading. Read at home where your teens can see you. Talk about what you're reading, and express your enjoyment. Always take a book or magazine along when you go to the beach or face waiting in a long line. Send your teen the message that reading is a pleasure, not a chore.
  • Keep reading material around. Kids who grow up with lots of books around tend to read more. Stock the bathroom, car, dining table -- wherever there's a captive audience -- with comic books, graphic novels, and magazines geared to your teens' interests; first books in hit YA series; or classic sci-fi and mysteries. There's nothing wrong with "micro-reading."
  • Give the gift of reading. Hand your teen a gift card to your local bookstore. They'll discover the treasure-hunt fun of looking for a good book.
Regan McMahon
Regan has been reviewing children's books for more than 20 years. A journalist and former book editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, she cites as one of her toughest assignments having to read and review the 784-page Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on deadline in 48 hours. Regan is also a published author whose book Revolution in the Bleachers: How Parents Can Take Back Family Life in a World Gone Crazy Over Youth Sports grew out of her experience keeping up with two athletic kids. She earned a B.A., teaching credential, and master's degree in the teaching of French at the University of California at Berkeley -- reflecting a passion she's had for all things French since reading Eloise in Paris as a child.