THE BLOG

5 Tips for Getting Teens to Read

10/21/2013 10:25 am ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014
Varda Epstein

I have a problem. It's a problem I believe is common to many people everywhere. In short: I can't get my kids to read. They're too busy playing on their computers and hi-tech devices. They read all the time, of course, but they aren't reading BOOKS.

As a communications writer at Kars for Kids, I write about education. Meanwhile, I can't seem to get my own darned kids to read. Pitiful, right?

There's an exception to the rule, thank goodness, at least for my family. Once a week, we unplug everything and bring out the books. That would be on the Jewish Sabbath, when computer use is proscribed for the very orthodox (we are very orthodox).

All too soon, however, the sun goes down, the Sabbath is over and the kids go back to their devices. I decided I wanted to do something about this. So, I sat down and drew up a plan of five things I would do to encourage my kids to read. More importantly, I then actually followed through. And whadayaknow, it works!

Wanna try it with your own kids? Be my guests. (Don't thank me. I'm a giver.)

Here goes:

1. Put awesome reading material in the bathroom. Crazy, huh? But it's pretty hard to schlep a laptop in there with you (though an iPad is a possibility). This runs on the principle of: If you lead, they shall follow. It has to be something they'd want to read. Try comic books or joke books. As long as they are reading printed material, it's all good (barring porn, of course).

2. Give your child a bookstore gift card. Leave it in an envelope on your kid's bed along with something you know he likes, such as a candy bar he covets. That makes it more a gift instead of an eye-roll producing burden. When he actually goes to the bookstore, he won't be able to help but get a little excited at the rich selection of printed material on display.

3. Buy your child a book related to her interests. Is your daughter a budding investigative reporter? Leave a biography of Nellie Bly on her bed along with a small red reporter's notepad and tiny gilt pencil. Wrap it all up and she won't be able to resist. Use your imagination to create your own book gift. You could include a book on Steve Jobs for the hi-tech kid in your life and include a CD of the movie Jobs. Wrap it in apple sticker-covered paper and place a perfect apple on the top (remember, leave it on the child's bed as a surprise). That's BOUND to make your child read.

4. Declare a No-Tech Day. No. It won't make you popular, but that's OK. You're prepared. You've put out amazing treats and new books that are sure to tempt your child. Don't let your kid trick you by going out to a friend's house. Tell him he has to bring the kid over to YOUR house.

5. Give him/her your all-time favorite book from when you were his/her age. Put A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or The Catcher in the Rye on your teenager's pillow with a handwritten note on nice stationery. Explain why you loved this book and why you think it is still relevant today (no spoilers!). Put a photograph of you at your child's age in the frontispiece with an inscription. Total kid bait.

Happy Reading!