Parents, even when their child reaches adolescence, have an important role in assisting with motivation to read. Many parents are not sure what to do to encourage reading skills. They may watch their child get further and further behind and fear that increasingly difficult academics will result in a frustrated, unsuccessful student. Research tells us that parents DO have a role. Here are some general tips that parents and other adults can use to encourage adolescents and teens to read:
Be a role model. Parents who read for pleasure motivate their children to read for enjoyment.
Provide lots of variety in reading materials including books, magazines and comic books, and newspapers.
Allow children to make their own choices of what to read.
Find out what your child's interests are and find materials that relate to those interests.
It’s all good! Whatever the reading choice, just about anything will build reading literacy skills.
Read at least some of the materials that interest your child or books written for their age group. This provides opportunities to talk about what interests them and further literacy skills in comprehension.
Reading aloud raises literacy skills and can be a fun family activity.
Be aware of how your child’s interests, skills and, therefore, reading habits mature.
Encourage reading but also know that children may naturally decline in the amount of pleasure reading they do as school demands increase. Rekindle their interests during school breaks and summer.
You will find many more tips and suggestions at Reading is Fundamental and National Center for Family Literacy.
Teachers have particular influence in the classroom and the goals they set may determine what motivates their students. Unfortunately, many teachers in middle and high school do not see their role as that of reading instructor. Yet, statistics suggest that that close to 20% of students do not read proficiently at this age. In general, students report a joy for learning when teachers enthusiastically see learning as the goal rather than performance or preparation for testing. Here are some basic guidelines for teacher success with reluctant readers:
Provide meaningful choices to create a sense of autonomy and control. To increase intrinsic motivation, involve students in decision making, give them choices and decisions about what they will do for their homework, what story to read, or how to compose a response to a story.
Get engaged with students. Teacher involvement shows students they are seen, heard and known in terms of learning goals.
Set short-term goals and tasks to increase self-confidence and competency. For example, have students read one paragraph and write a sentence about what that paragraph means in the story before going on to the next paragraph.
Instill a sense of internal control, effort equals accomplishment. Students are motivated when they see a relationship between achievement and their successful work not luck.
Provide opportunities for hands-on activities: Create situational interest—use a hook to get students' attention.
Find interesting and accessible texts. There is often a mismatch between the reading ability of the struggling reader and the textbooks used for the subject area. Many textbooks that are interesting topically are too advanced for the slow reader; by the time they have laboriously read the text, they have lost interest and comprehension.
Collaborate with the student to fulfill adolescent need for social involvement. Students who do not read well may not be motivated to try. As a result, many struggling adolescent readers lack sufficient practice in reading because they avoid reading whenever possible.
Make materials personally relevant. Show the students why they should care and how the information will help them. Adolescents are interested in popular culture; they spend most of their time engaged with popular tasks, not linked to school topics. How can these be merged?
These tips and others are available from Dr. Donna Alvermann, UGA Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Reading Education at the University of Georgia, at Reading is Fundamental.
Whatever debates exist in the nature of reading development, one factor that isn’t debated is that children read best when they can chose their own reading materials based not only on their reading level but on their interests. Who better to stay in touch with what is available than the youth services or school librarian? Librarians have access to the tools which provide the most current and most accurate information on the nature of children’s literature. In addition, librarians have access to the people who make up the child’s world: parents, peers and teachers.
Enrich the child’s environment with reading that speaks to a wide range of experience by providing diverse reading materials in terms of interests, level, format, culture and language.
Work with parents to inform them of what children need in terms of reading literacy at each stage of development, providing activities which enhance pre-literacy skills for young children through proficiency skills for young adults.
Design outreach services that reach the non-user population. Think outside the box in terms of what population of adolescents and teens in the community are NOT coming into the library and why.
Offer tutoring services and homework assistance.
Involve adolescents and teens in the planning of library programs to meet their interest and needs.
Provide a venue for summer reading programs, writing workshops and book clubs especially for adolescents and teens.
Strategize with teachers to provide materials that will enhance their ability to assist children with reading and writing development.
YALSA, the Young Adult Library Services Association provides many suggestions for successful programming with adolescent and teen populations.