In the battle for a teen’s attention, literature has some stiff competition nowadays. Books have to contend with smartphones, superhero movies, social media sites, video games and a bevy of other distractions.
Still, reading remains an enduring pastime. Unlike other mediums, literature is an immersive experience, demanding that you colour the material with your own imagination even as you process what you’re reading. It develops several beneficial skills and traits – critical thinking, attention to detail, empathy and compassion. And it introduces young minds to different cultural, racial and economic perspectives.
How do you nurture a love of literature at home when teens have so many other sources of entertainment and engagement? Sometimes, like a hero in a beloved fantasy novel, you have to take the unconventional path.
“It’s not reading,” say some. But audiobooks provide much of the same joy of reading in a more accessible format. For teens who have trouble concentrating, or those with disabilities that preclude them from reading, audiobooks are a fantastic way to get a literary fix.
When you’re in the car, consider switching off the radio and putting on an audiobook instead. Even that simple switch can make a lot of difference, as the whole family partakes in a riveting story as you drive.
Enrol Them in an Online English Course
For some would-be readers, the issue might be their exposure at school. Some teens associate reading with the classroom model of reading a book: Twenty-odd students all working their way through the material at the same pace.
But reading should be a self-guided endeavour. Students should have the option to learn from texts at their own pace, which is why online English courses might be a good fit. Your teen can take ENG4U online and experience the joy of reading a range of literary offerings – from the classic masterpieces to contemporary graphic novels – without worrying about keeping pace with a classroom of other students.
As mentioned, your teen will probably read a graphic novel in their high school English class. In the past couple of decades, instructors have embraced the once-dismissed form, and now treat it with the same close-reading respect as other novels.
Following suit, consider encouraging your “reading reluctant” teen to try graphic novels. Introduce them to the stirring Holocaust graphic novel, Maus. Or engage them with the gritty, thematically dense superhero novel, The Watchmen. You can consult NPR’s helpful (albeit subjective) list of the best graphic novels here.
Shoot for Relevance over Regard
Finally, when suggesting literature for your teen, try prioritizing relevance over high regard. In other words, recommend titles that apply to their lives rather than canonical works that they are “supposed to like.”
Teens often crave a sense of recognition in literature – a book or text that reinforces their budding politics or articulates their often-complex inner feelings. Try the simmering, moving social justice narrative of The Hate U Give or the brooding, emotional roller coaster of The Fault in Our Stars.
If you want to nurture your teen’s love of literature, think outside the old classics. Listen to audiobooks, consider enrolling your teen in an online high school for English, engage them with graphic novels and suggest relevant titles that speak to their experience.