Parents and Young Adult Literature
“Tell me a story.”
“Read just one more!”
“Can we go to the library today?”
Such requests are among the pleasant memories that parents have of their young children. These memories become even more cherished when parents look at these same children, now teenagers rushing off to part-time jobs or after-school sports or spending so much time with friends that they no longer seem to have time to do required school assignments, much less read a book. When parents ask us what they can do to encourage their teenage children to read, we find it easier to tell them what not to do because we’ve observed at least three clear-cut roads to failure.
- Don’t nag. There’s simply no way to force young adults to read, much less to enjoy it. Don’t nag. There’s simply no way to force young adults to read, much less to enjoy it.
- If you choose to read the books your teenagers are reading, don’t do it as a censor or with the intent of checking up on your child or your child’s school. If you choose to read the books your teenagers are reading, don’t do it as a censor or with the intent of checking up on your child or your child’s school.
- Don’t suggest books to your teenager with the only purpose being to teach moral lessons. Don’t suggest books to your teenager with the only purpose being to teach moral lessons.
Lest we appear unduly pessimistic, we hasten to add that we have also seen some genuinely rewarding reading partnerships between teenagers and their parents. These successful partnerships have resembled the kind of reading-based friendships that adults have with each other. Mutual respect is involved, and the partners take turns making suggestions of what will be good to read. Conversations about characters, plots, authors, and subject matter come up naturally, with no one asking teacher-type questions and no one feeling pressured to talk about what he or she has just read.
Teenagers enjoy being in a helping role (i.e., being experts whose opinions are valued). Some of the best partnerships we’ve seen have been between our students whose teenage children have volunteered to read and share their opinions on the books they’ve seen their mothers reading (sorry, we can’t remember hearing of fathers in this role, although we have known fathers who do read and serve as examples). A key to enticing young people to read is simply to have lots of books and magazines available. But they need to be available for genuine browsing and reading by everyone in the family, not purchased and planted in a manner that will appear phony to the teenager. A teenager who has never seen his or her parents read for pleasure will surely be suspicious when parents suddenly become avid readers on the day after parent-teacher conferences.
© ______ 2009, Allyn & Bacon, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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