It is probably one of the most common questions that I get asked as an English tutor – how can I get my teenager reading? Reading a wide variety of literature will improve writing skills, exposing your child to different techniques, styles, themes and ideas. It will also make him/her a more perceptive reader, able to spot patterns and engage with more complex ideas. But how to make it a habit? Here are a few suggestions.
Everyday in some form
In order to make anything a habit, you need to do it everyday for at least 21 days. This is not always easy, and I have tried and failed to embrace new habits (like getting up early!) However, reading is one thing that is an ingrained habit for me, and I cannot imagine a day that does not involve reading in some shape or form. If you want your child to become a reader, they need to read something everyday. This can be a few pages of a novel, or a news article, and does not need to be for more than ten minutes at a time.
Short stories are a great option for getting your child into reading, since the time commitment is much shorter than a novel. If your child is not used to reading at home, it can be frustrating to only be able to delve into a novel for short periods each day, so short stories will help your child experience the pleasure of reading a story in a much shorter space of time. Short stories will show your child that it is possible to tell a compelling story in a much smaller time frame, which is definitely a skill that they need to master for examinations.
Graphic novels are another resource that I consider to be very underused with students. The visually appealing nature means that they tend to engage students much more quickly, but many still contain a high language content. These are particularly good for texts that your child may find challenging, as the images will also help with their comprehension.
If your child is genuinely struggling to find time to sit down and read, then audio books are another possible solution. Arguably, it is more beneficial for your child to see the written text, but there are still more skills that can be gained through audio books, and it may be that listening rather than reading helps your child to engage more with a story. Listening during breakfast, rather than dinner when your child is more likely to be tired after school, can be a good way to get in those ten minutes of reading time.
This can be a bit of a controversial subject, and I feel that whilst e-books have many advantages, they do need to be used carefully. Some students genuinely do engage more with writing in this format, and dyslexic children in particular benefit from being able to enlarge print or change the background. It is still recommended that children read a mixture of electronic texts and print though, so not all their reading should be on devices.
Be around other readers
Any habit is going to be easier to embrace when there are others around you to emulate. Let your child catch you reading during the day, and wherever possible, try and sit down for a few minutes and read together (you can be reading separate books – the point is to make reading a shared social experience). Do your ten minutes in a coffee shop (when they are open again) with a hot chocolate and a cake to make the experience more special.
Leave your child invitations to read around the house when you are at home. Remember, these do not have to be fiction or long novels, you could share a news article with them that you think they may find interesting.
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