Learning to Love Reading at an Early Age
Following the announcement of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize winners in early May, I wanted to do a post on the importance of literacy and ways to encourage and promote literacy in teens and young adults. Books and reading have always played a big role in my life, from infancy to adulthood. Every night before bed, my mom would have my younger sister, Janelle, and me take turns choosing and reading the bedtime story. Those nightly oral readings culminated with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when I was 13 and Janelle was 11.
By the time I reached middle school, I was beginning to realize I was different from other kids. Books provided an escape from the social difficulties I faced at school, and they became my general entertainment. During summer vacation, we had to do an hour of silent reading a day. (Reading things like Seventeen magazine or a Garfield comic book did not count.) Acceptable reading had to be, for one, a book, and for another thing, it had to be developmentally appropriate enough to promote our critical thinking and vocabulary skills. Our parents had us keep lists on the refrigerator of the books we read, and if we read 20 or so, we would get to choose a special outing such as going out to dinner at a favorite restaurant or going to the mall.
Getting Completely Lost in a Book and Leaving My Stress Behind
I often read several more than the number required. For my sister, reading was more of a chore than a pleasure, not because she had difficulty with it, but because she just did not particularly see reading as something fun to do. She saw reading as something she did because she had to, for example, reading assignments for school. I always looked forward to reading, though, because I could put aside however difficult the school day had been, and let my mind wander to some place entirely new and different; I could just get lost in a book for a while.
Promoting Literacy to Reluctant Readers Even in Young Adulthood
If your teen or adult did not learn to enjoy reading at an early age, it isn’t too late to start them on this journey. The 2019 article Young Adults Don’t Read. Here’s What We Can Do About It, by Kimberly Rues, reports that only one in three high school seniors said they had read any books for pleasure in the last year.
It is important for you to model reading and have materials available for your teen or young adult. Giving a person a choice in what they read is the most important step. Here are a few suggestions of fun ways for promoting reading and literacy in teens and young adults:
- Keep or begin visits to the local library or bookstore throughout the teen years. Libraries can also be a great gateway for kids to build pre-employment skills. They can volunteer as an after-school tutor or materials handler (shelving and organizing materials), offer tech help to seniors, or by read one-on-one to at-risk youth in the community.
- Encourage your reader to share with you what they are learning or what they are enjoying about their choice of materials.
- Host a book-themed dinner party! After everyone in your group reads a predetermined book, such as Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling, plan a social event around the title. Ask each one to bring a dish featured in the book, i.e., Shepherd’s pie, bacon, or pumpkin cookies. You can even dress as your favorite character.
- Devise a book-themed scavenger hunt. Play on teams to encourage social skills and a bit of friendly competition. The first team to find all the items wins a prize.
- Do the old “read the book then watch the movie number.” Compare and contrast both.
- Join a local book club in your area. Book clubs encourage people to not only interact socially, but to expand their horizons by reading something they might not normally read. Note: In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many book clubs and other social groups are turning to virtual platforms such as Zoom or GoToMeeting to help ensure participants stay safe.
- Consider formats like audiobooks for young people with visual impairments or a reading-related learning disability to help make reading more manageable and enjoyable. Services such as Audible are available through Amazon.com.
- Have a Pulitzer Party! Journalists, authors, musicians, and playwrights consider the national annual Pulitzer Prize one of the most highly coveted awards. Get together with friends and share information about your favorite past or present Pulitzer Prize winner. For a full list of winners, visit the 2020 Pulitzer Prize.
Some of My Favorite Titles for Teens and Young Adults
- To Kill a Mockingbird
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
- The Harry Potter series
- The Fault in Our Stars
- The Help
- Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, Hallow City, and Library of Souls