Get Teens Reading Beyond Text Messages

Posted by: Je’nai Talley-Jackson

“Nearly half of 17-year-olds say they read for pleasure no more than one or two times a year—if that,” says Harvard Professor James Kim.

Girl reading

In summer, when many students lose regular access to books, the challenge to keep teens engaged in reading can be difficult. Many YMCA summer camps dedicate quiet time to solo and group reading programs for young children. But how can you help high schoolers foster a love of books? 

1. Meet Them Where They Are

Most teenagers are addicted to technology—and this can be a great place to encourage reading. Help teens move away from only reading text messages and focus on real texts—eBooks and online articles count! Learn more here about the reading habits of tweens and teens.

2. Make Reading Convenient

Be prepared! Bring reading materials on field trips, including magazines or the local newspaper. Having young adult books or short stories within arm’s reach can help teens pass the time before they resort to posting selfies.

3. Make it Social

Invite teens to take the lead by having a monthly book club where they get to select an appropriate book and lead the discussion. Encourage them to post photos of their books and share suggestions within their social media networks.

The benefits of reading will help prepare teens for college and adulthood with stronger skills in: communication, spelling, grammar, writing and vocabulary.

To help teens get started, refer them to this summer reading list:

  1. I Become Shadow by Joe Shine
  2. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  3. Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin
  4. My Life with the Walter Boys by Ali Novak
  5. Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson
  6. The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith
  7. Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert
  8. Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham
  9. Dumplin by Julie Murphy
  10. Infinite in Between by Carolyn Mackler
  11. Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
  12. These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
  13. This Side of Home by Renee Watson
  14. We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach
  15. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.

This list was compiled with help from Chicago Public Library librarians. View their complete teen reading list here.

Looking for more tips and support?

Have a summer reading suggestion? Tweet it using #BestSummerEver.

Want to receive free reading resources for your YMCA? Contact Jackie Thurnau and ask about Camp Readers!

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