Encouraging teenagers to read

Advice for parents and carers on encouraging young people to read

A teenager lying on the floor of a library reading a comic book

As your child enters their teen years, a whole world of exciting new fiction opens up to them, and books can give them a safe place to explore complex feelings. However, young people's lives are busier than ever, and it's easy for reading to slip down their list of priorities. Try these suggestions to encourage them to maintain a lifelong reading habit.

If they don’t want to read, try to find out why

In teenage years, reading is often seen as ‘uncool’. To overcome this, it can help if they see reading as something they can do to further their hobbies: how-to manuals are good, for instance.

If they’re a confident reader but have stopped reading, it’s possible they’ve become turned off by the reading they need to do for school work. As their school reading becomes linked to exam pressures, teens can begin to see reading as less fun than it used to be.

If they’re lacking in confidence, they might need some quick reads to boost their reading self-esteem. A quick check with their teacher can give you a clear picture of how they’re getting on as readers.

Look for books based on movies and computer games

If you’ve been caught up in a good story, you don’t want it to end! Lots of films, games and television shows are adapted from books, and young readers are much more likely to engage with something that they’re already familiar with and interested in.

Don’t be fussy about what they read

Here’s the key: reading is a habit, and as long as they’re in the habit of picking up something to read, it doesn’t really matter what they’re reading. So if they’re reading magazines, great – this can lead to further reading if you can establish what they’re interested in.

Also, remember that young people need to see reading as a fun thing to do. Don’t worry if you feel that their personal reading isn’t challenging them – school takes care of that. Don’t force them to read anything – that’s a sure way to associate reading with pressure.

Find out if their school is taking part in the Scottish Teenage Book Prize

The Scottish Teenage Book Prize is Scotland’s largest book award for young people. Teachers or librarians need to register to take part. After that, teens just need to read and discuss the three shortlisted books and vote for their favourite. Expressing an opinion about books can really help teens engage with reading!

The shortlist is announced every year near the beginning of September, and the voting deadline is around mid-February.

Make sure they see you reading

If your teen sees you reading, then that lets them know that you find reading enjoyable and worthwhile. It’s not guaranteed to get them reading, but it certainly sends out the right message.

The right book is out there

Be patient as you try to find the book that engages your teen. Some teenagers have a preconception that reading is largely about fantasy and adventure, and has very little relevance to their lives. In actual fact, young adult fiction is full of gritty and realistic stories featuring relatable teen voices. And our advice is not to worry about the mature content often found in these books – teens are bound to encounter discussion of adult issues through school or friends, and books are actually a great safe place for teens to explore their feelings about these issues.

Here are a few great places to find book recommendations:

Direct them to our Authors Live events

It can be really exciting and interesting for a teen reader to watch an event with one of their favourite authors. Events give readers an insight into what the author was thinking when they wrote a book, and can also give keen writers some great advice to use in their own writing. Scottish Book Trust’s Authors Live events feature some top names like Jacqueline Wilson, Marcus Sedgwick, David Almond and Patrick Ness. You can watch these events at any time on our Watch on Demand channel(this will open in a new window).

Help them find places to discuss books

It’s often the case that young people feel much more comfortable talking about books without adults in the mix, and there are plenty of websites available to help them do this – you’ll find a few suggestions below. This doesn’t mean you should stop talking about books with your teens – just that young people may appreciate a range of different people to share their thoughts with.