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Reading for High Schoolers 101: Free Your Inner Bookworm!

Student enjoying her summer reading for high school come Fall.
So often we remember the fads and phases we fell into during High School. Less often, do we think about the hobbies and passions we had before then. For so many high school students, recreational reading sounds like pure fiction. So how we do reignite the passion our teens have for reading?

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High school students love to read, whether they remember it or not. Somewhere along the way, perhaps in the slog of Middle School prescribed readings, many high school students develop an aversion to reading. Each year, this dread is reflected in the protest around assigned summer reading for high school. Reading for high schoolers, too often, adults find their way back into reading, and wonder why they ever stopped. Of course, we want to re-spark the joy of reading our child once had, and for good reason. The physical and mental benefits of reading are innumerable. So how do we guide our students back to being the bookworm they were born to be?

1. Teen’s Choice

Once your child has reached high school age, they ought to be choosing the books they read. The problem with prescribed reading is age-old. We’ve all been obliged to read “To Kill A Mockingbird” or “Lord of The Flies.” At high school age, sometimes kids simply don’t want to do what they’re told to. If you choose your teen’s book for them, it’s unlikely they’ll have a personal, vested interest in it. It’s well-documented that interest is integral to motivation in students, so by allowing them to choose you’ll ultimately motivate them to read. The best experience reading for high schoolers is often voluntary and leisurely.

2. Keep an Eye-Out

Without being too heavy-handed, try and seek out books at your child’s reading level. If your child struggles completing reading for high schoolers, or they unintentionally pick-up books too difficult for them, they may end up discouraged. If your child tends to pick up books that are too easy, they’ll read them quickly, and gain somewhat little. Conversely, if your child tends to pick up books that are too difficult both their reading and comprehension may be too slow for them to enjoy. When a book is outside the reading level of your child, whether too hard or too easy, it’s unlikely they’ll forge a sustainable relationship with the book they’re reading.

3. Let’s Talk About It

By asking your child about what they’re reading for high school, you can enrich their experience even further. By probing them on the books they’re reading, you force your child to recall the text. This allows them to make new connections, as well as deepen their understanding while explaining it to you. Further, this allows your child to practice reading, interpreting, and communicating ideas. Approaching the conversation may seem awkward or intrusive, especially for older students, so try to follow their lead. Capitalize on opportunities to ask them about their reading. Next time your high schooler mentions a book they’re reading, or is spotted with one, you’ve found your “in!”

4. One-Offs Rock, but Series Take the Cake

Although easier said than done, finding a series your child loves is a total home run. Luckily, many popular teen books are written as a series. When students fall in love with a series of books, they’re provided more literature to read and increased motivation. In my high school years, I would sit and obsessively read the Lord of the Rings series, written by J. R. R. Tolkien, while my friends worked through The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare (very popular summer reading for high schoolers at the time).  The anticipation of the next book in a series can propel your child through books faster than you’ve ever seen. It may not be observable, but an even larger benefit is a great series reinforces the idea that reading is something to look forward to. No less, it makes clear to your student that they are meant to read. 

Pro-Tip: Check out a fuller list of series high schoolers are sure to love below! They may be good fits if you have assigned summer reading for high school students.

5. Relate Reading to their Interest

Growing up, a book was amongst one of the worst presents I could get. However, in my teenage years, I came to enjoy receiving books on whatever niche interest I had. Oftentimes, I wanted to buy a book on whatever sudden obsessive interest I had picked up. At the time, it’s unlikely I felt it worth spending money on the books I wanted. For that reason, receiving a book on astrology, or pop culture, or modern history felt like I was receiving a gift I sincerely needed. Consider gifting a book to a teen in your life about that band on the poster above their bed, or an autobiography on the YouTuber they watch. Not only will they appreciate the sentiment, and feel heard, but they’re far more likely to read books they’re already excited about.

Pro-Tip: While it’s important to respect your teen’s autonomy, if your child is required to complete summer reading for high school, you can offer to help find a book! Even if they have to chose from a short-list, you can pull up the previews online, and turn, “summer reading for high school” into a year-round event.

We know your child is a born bookworm, it’s merely a matter of reminding them. Reading for high schoolers, or any-schoolers really, is a deeply personal experience, so it’s important your child forges a positive, healthy relationship with book-time.  If your child has assigned summer reading for high school, that may be the perfect time to implement the tips above. Whether you leverage their interests into book choices or set out to develop a culture at home around reading, you’re sure to shift their perception of reading.

Awesome Series & Summer Reading for High School Aged Kids:

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Divergent, Veronica Roth, Adventure/Science Fiction
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The Dark Artifices, Cassandra Clare, Fantasy Fiction/Young Adult Fiction
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The Twilight Saga, Stephenie Meyer,  Romance/Young Adult Fiction
The Immortals, Alyson Noël, Young Adult Fiction
The Maze Runner, James Dashner, Science Fiction/Young Adult Fiction
The Scorpion Rules, Erin Bow, Science Fiction

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