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Parenting advice: How to make teenagers read a book

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  • Take your teenage son to a bookstore and talk to a staff member who might be able to find a few books that might be of interest to him.

  • If books seem impossible to find, subscribe to a magazine that may be of interest to your teenage son – snowboarding, soccer, and yes, video gaming.

  • Find out if your teenage son’s English teacher is encouraging reading and has a grade incentive program for reading outside the curriculum. If not, encourage this. You might be surprised that your son is reading books – but just at school. Still, this is a good thing.

  • In the summer, go on camping trips where media does not exist – bring books instead!

  • If your teenage son likes sports then see if the local sports teams are doing reading or literacy promotions. Get your teenager tuned into these events by asking him to volunteer for that organization.

  • Purchase a tablet that can download books – my oldest teenager loves doing this now versus purchasing paper books.

  • Join a book club with your teenager or preschooler - in Vancouver, B.C., there is Christianne’s Bookclubs, created in 1996, help families interact around quality literature 
  • Discuss with your teenage son the benefits of reading on life outcomes and how it changes the brain in positive ways. Try not to be too gloomy.


  • I hope this gives you some understanding of the issues and ideas to help your teenage son. I hated reading as a child and teenager due to my own Dyslexia. In fact, I don’t think I had a dopamine reward system developed for reading. Rather it was an association based on fear and apprehension. Even when my parents read aloud to me it was frustrating due to my weakness in following oral information. I just couldn’t remember what they were saying to me. I loved picture books.

    I did not develop a love for reading until I was about 20 years old. I was a dishwasher at Carlos & Buds Tex Mex Restaurant in Vancouver at the time. There were two English majors hired as front cooks for the restaurant. Yes, not many jobs existed for English majors even then. While washing cheese off nacho plates I would overhear them chatting about the novels they were reading. I would listen in fascination and also in fear as I struggled to understand the vocabulary they were using. At that moment, I decided to read so I could engage in their conversations. I did not want to feel stupid. That was over 27 years ago.

    What is the moral of that story? It is never too late to become an avid lover, reader and even writer of books.

    Recommended reading: 

    Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year Olds -- Kaiser Family Foundation 

    National Endowment for the Arts - 2007 Reading Study

    The Journal on Research on Libraries and Young Adults 

    Reading and depression --

    Reading a "turn-off" for many teens -- BBC

    Computer gamers less likely to go to university, research shows -- The Guardian 

    Read more references articles here. For more insights on neuroscience and education from the author, see Howard Eaton's blog. 

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