How to keep older kids reading (and why it is so important that they do)

Life is busy!  Not just for adults, but for teens as well.  School, homework, sport, music lessons, after school activities, part-time jobs…. the list goes on.  And then they need to try and find time to socialise and spend time with friends and family.  It is not a wonder that reading for fun often gets put into the “I don’t have enough time” basket for young people as they enter the high school years.  Just keeping up with the reading expected from school is hard enough.  And when they do get some quiet time, more likely they will spend it on social media or streaming the latest shows than recreational reading.

But even given the realities of teenage life in our current society, it doesn’t hurt to pause and just remember the joys of reading for fun, as well as the benefits.  Reading offers so much more to young people than just a chance to switch-off for a few mintues.

High-level literacy is critical

A quick google search will bring back many articles and evidence on how reading helps to improve the academic outcomes of all students.  Wide reading helps students expand their vocabulary, use words more effectively, improve communications skills and gives then skills in critically analysing all forms of written, spoken and visual story.

All subjects at school rely in the student being able to effectively communicate their ideas and learning in written form.  Being able to read and accurately interpret texts, questions and instructions is vital to academic success in the current educational system.

Reading develops empathy

The well-known George R.R. Martin quote,  “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies.” said Jojen.  “The man who never reads lives only one.”  succinctly encapsulates the ability of reading and books to help develop empathy in readers.  By identifying and learning about the lives of others, even fictional characters, young people learn about the human experience from the perspective of others, as well as feel less alone in their own experiences.

Books often give people the words when sometimes they have none

Reading and books give young people the opportunity to explore the ‘big issues’ they are facing in life.  The world is a challenging and complicated place for young people as they move into adulthood.  Global events such as war, famine, environmental issues, poverty can make all of us feel powerless at times.  Issues closer to home, such as dealing with bullying, friendships, domestic violence, divorce and mental health issues  can make life seem unbearable.  But reading can often give young people the chance to explore these issues and give them the words to talk about what is going on in their lives when maybe they don’t have those words themselves.  Being able to read about other young people going through what they or their friends are experiencing can help them work out their own feelings.

Make it part of their routine

So, the benefits of recreational reading for teenagers is quite clear, but how do we, as adults, help give students the opportunity to read more?  One way is to make reading as much a part of their schedule as sports training or music lessons.  Try finding a time to set aside for reading each day, even if it is just for a short amount of time.

6 ways to encourage a reluctant older reader to read

1. Model reading as a recreational activity

One of the best ways to encourage teenagers to read is to be an active reader yourself.  If you children see you reading for fun and actively taking an interest in books, then they see it as a valid way to spend their time.  Finding time to read together, go to the library or bookshop together or discuss books together  promotes both valuable time spent with your children as well as letting them see that you value reading as a fun thing to do.

2. Create balance.

A balanced lifestyle is important for everyone and especially for busy teens.  Ensure there is a balance in all things, from eating, to physical exercise, social media use, extracurricular pursuits, socializing, study and recreational reading. Have those conversations and talk about your expectations, how balance in important in your own life and how you balance your own life.

2. Transition them

Did you child leave primary school and perhaps just get ‘lost’ in the vast volumes of YA books on offer? Was it perhaps overwhelming for them content wise? Consider reading alongside your tween and ‘holding their hand’ (metaphorically speaking probably!) as you walk them from primary school novels to middle grade novels and then into YA reading territory. You will enjoy the journey as much as they do.

3. Offer incentives.

Offer new books, money, screen time or whatever their ‘currency’ is. Many of us pay our children pocket money for extra work or rewards for great grades – I think the same can apply to books, for a time. Once a child falls deeply into a book, the rewards becomes less important but sometimes it’s just getting them to the point at which they do indeed fall into the book.

4. Make it social.

Browse the blogs and social media accounts of favourite middle grade or YA authors. Encourage your child to curate their social media in such a way that authors are a part of their daily feed. Many authors are very active on social media and engage with their young audience and with other book creators – one social media follow of an author often ends in many social media follows of authors.   Many authors are very active on social media and engage with their young audience.

5. Bring books to life.

Join a tween or teen book club or start a club with peers .  Make time to visit authors when they visit local independent bookstores or literature festivals. Many YA authors have rockstar status and are inspiring – in both reading and in life.

Reading suggestions

If you are looking for books for your tweens or teens, there are many online sources of ideas such as:

Inside a dog

A place for bookish teens.  If you are aged 12-18 can sign up to enter competitions, publish their own creative work, meet other avid readers, contribute book reviews, find book recommendations and so much more!

What should I read next?

Enter a book you like and the site will analyse our huge database of real readers’ favorite books to provide book recommendations and suggestions for what to read next.


Whichbook enables millions of combinations of factors and then suggests books which most closely match your needs.

Literature Map

If you like an author, find others you might like too.

Read it. Loved it!

Helping boys and girls aged 10+ consistently find great books to read and love.


Bookfish works by matching your personal preferences to what others say about the books.

Book Seer

I’ve finished reading… what should I read next?


Explore new books.  Read reviews from other Goodreads users.

But don’t forget that school library staff love talking about books and reading and are dedicated to finding books that appeal to all readers.  We welcome communications with any parents/guardians who wish to discuss reading options for their children.  And the library blog contains many reading suggestions, from spotlights on particular titles available in the library, to reading lists based genre or interest areas.


[source: “How to keep older kids reading (and why its so important they do“, by Megan Daley, June 2nd 2019, Mumlyfe]


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