Originally Sent: 5/2/2013
May 2, 2013
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Let’s Encourage Teens to Read!
As the school year winds down down, take a moment to breathe and delight in your blessings. Push aside problems and difficulties and dwell on the kindness and goodness of God. It will make a difference in your day and motivate you to keep pressing on.
Looking ahead to summer and the next school year, it’s helpful to have a plan of action to encourage your teens to take pleasure in pursuing reading. Whether your teen is a reading enthusiast or a reluctant reader, you can do your best to nurture progress and spur him on to the point of enjoyment.
A Starting Place
Although your teen is likely reading books as part of his course work in history and English, promote the idea of reading simply for pleasure. One way is by being an example of an avid reader. Sometimes, homeschool parents think they are too busy to read. If that’s your situation, then you may want to begin slowly but deliberately by carving out a small amount of time (15 minutes a day?) to enjoy a book. Some homeschooling parents include reading time as part of the lunch break. Others turn off the TV to enjoy reading in the evening. Share with your teen ideas, character sketches, fascinating places, or new thoughts that you discover while reading your book. Maybe both of you can read the same book and discuss what caught your interest and why. Each of you will likely enjoy the differences that each generation brings to the book’s analysis.
You may want to help your teen organize a book club. Members can choose a different book to read each month and then meet together to informally discuss it. Serve a variety of refreshments (usually a good way to draw a crowd!) and let the conversation flow. The teens may wish to rotate leading the discussion, hosting the event, and choosing the next book. The key is pleasure reading—so the more informal the better.
Enjoying family read aloud times needn’t end when your children become teens. Laughing together, learning about a new culture, and sharing the experience of the ups and downs of a character’s life as they grow and change are wonderful ways to encourage teens to talk. Discussing a character’s strengths and weaknesses may open up natural lines of communication with your teens.
Rather than watching a DVD or listening to iPods on family car trips, why not read or listen to a book together? Find one that will capture the interest of most of the family’s ages. On one such road trip, Becky’s family read Code Word: Catherine by Jodie Collins. Years later her oldest son was excited to see the book in his college’s library. And then recently, she met a young man from Ethiopia (the setting of the book) and after recommending the book, he told her that some of the characters were members of his family tree. All of that from one book!
Books on tape may capture the imagination more easily than the written word for reluctant readers or those who struggle with reading. Learning to picture ideas and events in the mind can improve your teens’ photographic memory. That, in turn, can reap academic rewards (improved spelling skills, memory retention, etc.).
Variety is the Spice of Life
With so many different genres, the task is not finding something interesting to read, but narrowing down the field! Your teen can mix it up and choose selections from a variety of subjects, time periods, and authors. Where to begin? The website, Genres of Literature, lists many types of literature. World Magazine’s “The Century’s Top 100 Books” list contains both fiction and non-fiction selections.
It may be interesting for your teen to make a spreadsheet to keep track of books he reads in each category. As an incentive, have her set a goal for the number of books she will read in a given year and brainstorm with her an appropriate reward such as an overnight trip with mom or dad, a trip to an amusement park, a gift certificate to a favorite store, or something as simple (but enticing) as a day off school when she reaches her goal. Some colleges will ask their applicants for a list of the books they’ve read in high school. That may be an added inducement to thoughtfully choose and read books.
Having familiarity with a wide assortment of books is also an advantage when your teen is interviewed by college admissions officers, employers, and others. It makes for a well-rounded base of knowledge when writing essays or keeping a conversation going! Both the SAT and ACT essay expect students to draw on literature when addressing the given topic. A varied reading will provide teens with quotes and examples to use, resulting in a substantive essay response.
Sources for Books
Books are everywhere! Make good use of your public library and try out some free online sources for books such as the online library from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as many other free online libraries, and downloadable sites for classics whose copyrights are expired. Kindle and other electronic book readers offer easy and inexpensive access to books. (If you don’t own an e-reader, consider downloading free software to make your PC or laptop Kindle-friendly.) Check out the prices at Half.com before buying books at full retail price. Used curriculum sales usually feature many book selections, and garage sales/flea markets frequently provide a great selection of books to rummage through.
Encourage your teen to begin his own library of books that he’ll want to grow over the years and into adulthood. He can add to it by including titles on his Christmas and birthday lists. A gift of a book—especially if the giver takes time to write a personal note on the inside covers—may be a treasure to keep through generations to come. There’s just something about handling a book and smelling its pages as you read. And the ability to make notes or highlight certain sections in a book “marks” it as personal to the reader.
Lists of Suggested Books
There’s no limit to the suggestions for books worthy to read. It may be that simply providing a reading list to your teens will provoke them to read. We recommend using discernment, keeping in mind your teen’s maturity level and your personal convictions when choosing books. With that disclaimer, the following links provide many options for books that your teens may enjoy:
In addition, some reference books containing teen reading lists include:
If you’ve tried your best and your teen still chooses a video game or television over reading, don’t give up. It may be that his reluctance to read is a maturity issue, and as he develops in other areas, his penchant for reading will increase. If your teen is college bound, remind her that one of the best test preparations for doing well on the SAT and ACT college entrance tests is to … READ! As Mark Twain once said, “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.” Continue to offer choices, be a good example, and leave the rest in the Lord’s hands!
A Final Thought
The greatest book of all, the Bible, is full of adventure, twists and turns of events, and characters that remind us of ourselves. It’s also full of the love and redemption of the Lord Who watches over and cares for us during our joy-filled moments and saddest valleys. No matter what your current circumstances, the faithfulness of God is sure and steadfast, and the Bible reinforces His character on every page. Encourage your teen to read God’s Word with the primary goal of knowing God and His ways, and secondarily to be well-versed in its wonderful narratives and character development!
Join us next month as we explore the many services HSLDA offers to parents teaching high school at home.
Currently reading Polishing God’s Monuments: Pillars of Hope for Punishing Times and Heaven’s Calling.
Becky Cooke and Diane Kummer
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