How to Motivate a Middle School Reader
In the early grades, parents and teachers focus on teaching kids how to read. As kids get older, we hope they'll want to read. Reading for pleasure has lots of benefits. It builds vocabulary and improves reading comprehension, writing, spelling, grammar, and knowledge of the world. It also boosts test scores.
Try these six tips to get middle schoolers reading:
Let them choose what they read: Having control over what they read increases kids' motivation to do it. And don't criticize their choices or formats -- books, ebooks, graphic novels, articles. To widen the field, take them to the library or bookstore. Browsing in a used bookstore can be a revelation (and easier on your wallet!). For great suggestions for all types of kids, check out our Summer Reading List.
Feed their interests: Whatever your kids are into -- basketball, space exploration, World War II, alien invasions, wizards and dragons, humor, teen romance, social justice, books about middle school (a vast genre unto itself!) -- there are books about it. Finding a book on a topic your kid is already passionate about is half the battle.
Make it social: Reading the latest hit book lets your kid be a part of what "everyone" is talking about. Many friendships have been formed over a love of Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Check the middle-grade bestseller lists, clue your kid into book blogs (including ones by kids and teens), and ask booksellers and librarians what kids this age are requesting. And keep your ears tuned to book raves on carpool rides!
Mix movies and books: Many books written for kids and teens are adapted into movies, and knowing there's a big-screen version on the way can motivate kids to read the book first -- or after -- to compare the book and movie versions of, say, Wonder or A Wrinkle in Time. It also gives kids the chance to be the expert who knows more on a subject than their parents.
Follow the series: If your kid likes the first book in a series, keep 'em coming. Adventure sagas and dystopian nail-biters, which kids love at this age, have lots of installments, each ending on a tempting cliffhanger. Getting hooked on a series like Percy Jackson or The Mortal Instruments leads to being hooked on an author, which leads to more books and even spin-off series.
Make time for reading: Model reading at home by turning off the TV and devices and reading a book or magazine yourself in full view -- your kids will be more inclined to follow your lead and read themselves. Try reading aloud: Big kids like it, too. And when you go out, get kids in the habit of bringing a book or magazine along in the car: They're great boredom killers!