4 Ways to Get Tweens and Teens Excited About Reading

Check out these expert tips for encouraging a love of reading in your tweens and teens

Photography from iStockphoto.com

With all the distractions that come along with the tween and teen years—hanging out with friends, playing video games, posting duckface photos of themselves on Facebook—there isn’t always a lot of time left over for cozying up with a good book. We asked Lynne Missen, publishing director for Penguin Canada’s Young Adult (YA) imprint Razorbill (and the new online community for teens, Razorbill.ca)—and mom of two—to share her best tips for encouraging a love of reading in your tween or teen. Here’s what she had to say.

1. Read the same books as your tweens and teens
Great stories are not just timeless, they are ageless. Naturally, as an editor of young-adult literature, I love reading these books myself. But, more and more adults are falling in love with young-adult books. The category has more great stories, more dimensions, more grit—and therefore more varied audiences—than ever before. It’s a benefit of my job that I have access to lots of books, which I bring home for my daughter and son. Having read the same things they have, I find that I am more attuned to the casual conversations around my home, and quicker to engage when I see the chance to chime in.

2. Don’t be afraid of challenging material
As our kids age, complex issues creep into their lives and inevitably into our homes. Often, they are tough to address. Books give kids secondhand exposure to real-life challenges—bullying, faltering relationships, family strife, alienation, suicide and others—without the associated real-life risks. It’s literally an arm’s-length experience.

As parents, we naturally want to protect our children from life’s harsh lessons, which may lead us to restrict certain books. If you are concerned about the content of a book your child brings home, read it yourself and see how the content is handled addressed. By doing this, you can open the door to discussion with your child.

3. Share, share, share 
There are quite a few books I remember loving as a kid—Mary Rodgers’ Freaky Friday, Agatha Christie mysteries, James Herriot’s books and anything by Judy Blume. One coming-of-age story that I read again and again was Just Morgan, by Susan Beth Pfeffer, about a teen girl going to live in New York with her reclusive writer uncle. A couple of years ago, when my own daughter was around the age I was when I first read Just Morgan, I tracked down a copy online and shared it. She liked it (though perhaps not with my level of devotion).

“Coming of age” isn’t unique to any generation. While the scenarios, pop-culture lingo, and times do change, the sentiment of books usually endures. As parents, it’s fun to think back on our own pre-teen and teenage years. Sharing your stories—both the books and how they made you feel—is a wonderful way to connect. But, a word of caution: if your child resists or just can’t get into a particular book, don’t force it. There’s no surer way to turn off young readers. Find out what they like reading and find the right books together.

4. Fuel any signs of enthusiasm
All book lovers love books, but nobody falls as head over heels as a young book lover. Like any teen crush, the love may come and go. But when you see it, support it. This can be as simple as asking about a book over dinner, showing a particular interest in a theme or character, or looking up the author online and passing on the information.

Tell us: What was your favourite book to read when you were a tween/teen?


30 responses to “4 Ways to Get Tweens and Teens Excited About Reading”

  1. Jennifer says:

    As a tween I loved Babysitters Club books and as a teen I loved Sweet Valley High books

  2. Lee-Ann Sleegers says:

    My favourite book when I was a tween was Anne of Green Gables and as a teen my husband enjoyed the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

  3. shelley k says:

    “are you there God, it’s me Margaret” by Judy Blume and The Diary of Anne Frank

  4. Jonnie H says:

    i was a big fan of the Feat Street books by RL Stine

  5. Jonnie H says:

    Whoops, I meant to type Fear Street

  6. Shelbeeray says:

    I was obsessed with Nancy Drew…but a Wrinkle in Time was my absolute favourite. I can still “feel” that book and then there was a series with “tripods”..I can’t remember the names in that series.

  7. Helen says:

    I loved the Flowers In the Attic series when I was a teen.

  8. AMI B says:

    I can remember reading a lot of R L Stine books.

  9. Cora McKnight says:

    Was not much of a reader so can’t think of a book from back then. I am however enjoying books with my tween- Heartland series,Canterwood Crest Academy series and Mad Horse Series. I get to experience what I missed out on growing up and hopefully she will have that interest in reading that I didn’t!

  10. ilana says:

    a timely post – I have just finished re-reading a dozen or so of my favourite YA books that I managed to store away, one day hoping my own children would enjoy reading them. I now have three daughters, the eldest is 10 and almost ready to start reading them. My favourites were The Trouble with Thirteen by Betty Miles, Chloris and the Freaks by Kin Platt (and the rest of that series), Where Did the Summer Go by Ethel Edison Gordon, and Starring Sally J Freedman as herself by Judy Blume.

  11. Erin W. says:

    I loved Kit Pearson’s Looking at the Moon. I received it as a birthday gift when I was 11 or 12 and read it many times, along with Pearson’s other novels.

  12. Carolyn says:

    I loved Nancy Drew as a young teen. I still have the books! When I was a little older, I remember reading Joy Adamson’s series Born Free, Living Free and Forever Free. Travelling to Africa is on my bucket list because of those books.

  13. Catherine Kelly says:

    As a teen I read anything I could get my hands on but the only ones I seem to recall were Judy Blume books. They must have been my favourites.

  14. Cindy says:

    I loved (and still love!) Rilla of Ingleside…the 8th book in the Anne of Green Gables series. I also remember loving books by Cynthia Voigt.

  15. Trish says:

    I was a big fan of Judy Blume’s books. My favourite was Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret.

  16. Sandra says:

    As a teen I really loved the Sweet Valley High series.

  17. Joy says:

    Oh my gosh – i don’t remember exactly – but i do remember enjoying anything by Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume. I read a lot, and i am so happy my daughter loves to read a lot too – thank goodness for the public library!

  18. Carlie says:

    Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High!

  19. Lesley B. says:

    My favourite books were The Babysitter’s Club series!! Loved them :)

  20. Marlibu says:

    I loved sweet valley high

  21. Amanda says:

    I loved Judy Blume books as a teen, and still love her even as an adult. Also loved the Babysitter’s club books, and I am glad my daughter has started to enjoy them as well :)

  22. Meagan says:

    I LOVED reading as a teen, and still love it today! My favourite teen books- Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley High, A Ring of Endless Light, Glass Castle. Too many to choose from!

  23. Morgan says:

    I was an Anne of Green Gables fan and have recently read Susan Juby’s books. Yay for Canadian literature!

  24. becky boo says:

    When I was a teen I loved reading Lurlene McDaniel books. I still do now in fact. I also enjoyed the baby sitters club series.

  25. Christina says:

    I loved reading the Babysitter’s Club books and anything by Roald Dahl (still enjoy all of his stories…especially The Witches).
    Today I try to share my love of reading with all five of my daughters from my 11 and 10 year olds (introducing her to The Babysitter’s Club now too), my 7 year old reading Judy Blume, all the way down to my 4 year old twins who were just given the most recent collection of Dr. Seuss stories. So glad to hear that the love of reading is shared by so many and how many of us value passing down that love to our children.

  26. sandra edwards says:

    It was Are you there god its me margaret..hands down!!! I still remember it!!!!

  27. Larry Demings says:

    I was a fan of “The Great Brain Series” as well as “Hardy Boys Series”

  28. Trisha turner says:

    My favorite was pretty much anything by R.L. Stine. I used to like the scary stuff. Now I’m such a wimp, but I still take pleasure reading some of the YA books out there!

  29. Larissa says:

    As a teen and tween I read widely without any censorship, which I greatly appreciated. However as a tween I loved all the Anne of Green Gables books and Emily of New Moon Series. Great stuff!

  30. Mary ellen McCauley says:

    Anne of green Gables & Little Womwn as a tween and as a teen To Kill A Mockingbird