When I taught high school English, I noticed an amazing phenomenon. If I made authors sound mysterious or grotesque, my students would flock to their writing. Edgar Allan Poe is a given, but I could casually throw out, “Actually, Ben Jonson was buried standing up,” or “Thomas Hardy wanted his heart buried with his family and his cremated ashes buried at Westminster Abbey. Rumor has it, the surgeon’s cat ate the heart before it could be buried.” I also love the rumor that William Shakespeare was actually Christopher Marlowe hiding out on some island because of his career as a spy.
Aside from emphasizing the grotesque, here are some tips for the reluctant high school reader:
Provide quality reading materials – not just books – in your home. Look into getting a magazine subscription. I love Real Simple and Wired (I grew up reading Reader’s Digest, but I’ve heard it’s just not the same). Read as a family. Make the library a regular family event.
2. Make Time To Read
In order to read more often, you have to create times of quiet at home. Start with encouraging 30 minutes of reading before bed. I would also start intentionally limiting screen time (only watch television as a family, only watch TV on the weekends, or only watch television for 30 minutes or an hour a day). Enforce periods of quiet contemplation and reflection. Families can easily get busy. If reading has not been a priority, then see if you can make it one.
Keep trying different kinds of books. One of my dearest friends said she never learned to love to read because she always had to read books she didn’t like. Try to offer on-level books as well as below-reading level books to limit discouragement or intimidation. Audio Books or an audio-book service might also be a good option. (You can listen to tons of classic books for free at this website).
4. Trade Read
Offer a trade, “I will read The Hunger Games/Harry Potter/Percy Jackson/ridiculous vampire-movie book, if you will read A Tale of Two Cities or Rebecca (or any of these other awesome classic novels).
5. Consider a Kindle
I have a Kindle Touch, and I love it. The thing about a Kindle: it’s easy to keep up with a variety of books, and it’s hard to get intimidated by such a small device. Tolstoy or some other classic novels could be daunting simply because of their heft. With a Kindle, it’s easier to read a screen shot at a time. You will have to be intentional about monitoring this and be very upfront with your teen about how to use this device.
Remain patient and only encourage. Using reading as a punishment or prodding too much can exacerbate the problem. Step back and remember to encourage.