5 Tips for the Reluctant High School Reader

When I taught high school English, I noticed an amazing phenomenon. If I made an author sound mysterious, macabre, 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 lucrative career as a spy.

Aside from this, here are some tips for encouraging reading with teenagers. 

1. Environment: Provide quality reading materials - not just books - in your home. Look into getting a magazine subscription. I personally love Real Simple and Wired. Read as a family. Make the library a regular family event. 

2. Have Time To Read: Just as there is a time for everything, you have to make time for reading. Whether you avoid television during the week or at certain points in the day, start intentionally limiting screen time to focus on 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.

3. Variety: 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 provide on-level books as well as below-reading level books to minimize discouragement or intimidation. Audio Books or an audio-book service might also be a good option. We have an Audible subscription and love it.

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." 

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 classical works could be daunting simply because of their heft. With a Kindle, it's easier to just read a screen shot at a time. You will have to be intentional about monitoring this and be very upfront with your teen about the use of this device. 

Bonus Tip: Remain patient and only encourage. Using reading as a punishment or prodding too much can exacerbate the problem. Step back and remember to encourage. 

Kelly Wiggains