Encourage Your Teen To Read


by Sarah Flowers

When you bring a baby home from the hospital or attend
orientation for your preschooler,teen reading you hear a lot about the importance of reading to your young child. But by the time your baby grows into a teenager, few experts discuss the importance of encouraging teens to read. And the statistics on teen reading are somewhat grim:

  • According to the Washington Post, the average SAT reading score for the class of 2011 (497) is the lowest since 1972
  • The National Endowment of the Arts found in a 2007 study that the number of 17-year-olds who never read for pleasure doubled in the past twenty years to 19 percent
  • Forty-nine percent of public libraries don’t have a full-time staff person dedicated to teens, and 21 percent of schools do not have a full-time, paid, state-certified librarian
Teens who choose to read for fun score significantly higher on tests and achieve more success, both academically and in the workplace, than those who read only what is necessary for school assignments. A 2006 study found that schools that employed a full-time school librarian saw their ACT subject scores raised by 16–20 percent. School and public librarians are the vital link to connect teens to reading materials and encourage them to read for fun — an activity that’s free and that teens can do anywhere.

Want to take matters in your own hands and encourage your teen to read? Follow these tips from the Young Adult Library Services Association:  

Model good reading behavior - Your reading habits rub off on your teens. If they see you using the library and reading for fun, they’ll do it too. Talk to your kids about what they—and you—are reading.  Sharing books with one another is a great way to maintain closeness with your teens as they grow. Taking their reading recommendations shows your respect for their interests.

Plan a trip to the library - Make sure your teens get to the library during Teen Read Week; check with your school librarian or public library to see when they’re open and then plan a family trip to find materials together. And while you’re at it, see if your library is offering any special programs for Teen Read Week (typically held between October 16-22 each year) —there could be an opportunity for your teen to meet an author, learn how to draw comics, create a book trailer, or some other fun activity.

Let your kids pick their own reading material - Teens are more likely to read if they like what they’re reading. If your teen loves the Kardashian sisters, let her read a celebrity magazine. If your kid likes the NFL, find some books about sports. Your librarian will be more than happy to talk to your teen about his or her interests and find a book, magazine, or other reading material that matches them, all while making sure that the material meets your standards.

Sarah Flowers is the president of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). Looking for more guidance? Find recommended reads from the past ten years at or check out the latest news on YA lit at YALSA’s literature blog, The Hub.