It’s hard to compete with Snap Chat, Instagram & Facebook. Written word has taken a far backseat. But, with school having started or starting soon, apps and electronics need to be shelved. It used to be that public figures sang the praises of reading, but we don’t hear much anymore. Ben Carson has applauded his mother for making him read- a lot- and even demanding he write a book report for every book he read. It’s hard to argue with a neurosurgeon’s logic!
If you’re the parent of a teen or preteen, you know the struggle is real. Once in a blue moon, you find a child who loves to read. Otherwise, it’s like pulling teeth. How do we encourage without being a nag? Here are a few simple ways to do it.
Do you read? Lead by example. When is the last time your son or daughter saw you read? In our house, my youngest knows that bedtime for Mom means she’s reading. My Kindle is never far. He physically sees me reading.
What are you reading? If you’ve read something lately that really excited you, whether it was a newspaper article, digital magazine or book, tell them about it! Recently, I thought my favorite book series was ending. I was legitimately upset. During lunch, I told our son about it. This launched into an entire conversation over what the series was about, why I liked it, and so on. Impart onto them why you prefer a specific genre. If possible, let them see some of the book. Share it.
What is their favorite movie? Chances are, it was a book first. I purposely watch the ending credits of movies just to see if it says ‘based on a book by’. Kids are often blown away to learn movies like ‘Jaws’, ‘Jurassic Park’ and more all started as written word. If they like the movies, perhaps they’ll want to discover its origins. Maybe you’ll be surprised too. Do a Goggle search of a show or movie you love to see if it was a book first, too.
Never assume you already know what they’ll like. Having 3 sons has taught me that I never knew nearly as much as I ever thought I did! I never thought our youngest would like non-fiction. To me, non-fiction is a research tool or read specifically for a reason. However, he seems to prefer actual events and knowledge gained from true stories and books that teach him things. Since he has decided to go into ministry as a profession, he has chosen to read books targeted to ministry and Christ. Recently, a youth leader suggested that the kids read a specific book about being a youth leader. He read it straight through! I was amazed. Now, I have a better understanding of what he wants to read.
Behold the power of peers! What are their friends reading? One of the reasons book series such as Harry Potter and Diary of a Wimpy Kid are so popular is word of mouth. Find out what other students frequently check out of the library (ask the librarian!) or ask your kids. We all know how powerful peer influence can be. Use it for the good!
What are they into? Have a computer/tech fanatic? Do a search for biographies of people like Steve Jobs. Sports books are easy to find. There seems to be a different one daily. Don’t limit it to just fiction. A budding basketball star may be encouraged by books about Christian players. Remember Tim Tebow? He was homeschooled AND he has had a number of books written about him.
Never give up! If you find it frustrating and nothing seems to help them want to read, stick with subtle hints and leave books in plain sight. Sometimes seeing a book that might interest them is enough to pick it up. Keep encouraging them. If you care about it, they will too.