Being able to read well is more important than ever for young adults seeking to achieve economic success. But more than 60 percent of middle and high school students score below “proficient” in reading achievement, according to a December 2011 report by the Alliance for Excellent Education.
“Kids need strong reading skills if they hope to graduate from high school AND they really need to plan for college – 59 percent of U.S. jobs today require some postsecondary education, compared to 28 percent in 1973,” says Rhiannon Paille, 27, an advocate for teen literacy and author of the new fantasy novel, Flame of Surrender.
The best thing parents can do to help boost their 12- to 18-year-olds’ literacy is to get them reading, and just about anything qualifies.
She offers these suggestions:
- Buy them comic books. Boys persistently lag behind girls in reading, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, Paille says. If your son isn’t a reader, try getting him hooked on comic books. “Stephen King started off reading comics, Tales from the Crypt. Hey, if it was good enough for him…!’’ From comic books, they may move into graphic novels, a popular young adult genre. As long as they’re reading, they’re building comprehension skills and vocabulary, so it needn’t be War and Peace.
- Look for book-to-film novels. Chances are, if it was a great movie, they saw it, and that’s often enough to get a non-reader curious. This is another especially good hook for boys, Paille says.
- Tune into what they’re interested in. What kinds of video games do they play? Some popular games have spawned novels, including Halo, EverQuest, ElfQuest and Gears of War. Even gaming guides, which players read to unlock new clues to advancing in the game, can motivate a teen to crack a book.
- Read the same book your teen is reading. Book clubs are popular because people like talking to others who’ve read the same book. Your teen may not be ready for an evening of petit fours and grape juice while discussing the pacing of Hunger Games, but it can make for some interesting conversation on the way to soccer practice. And you can always nudge them along with comments like, “Oh, you haven’t gotten to that part yet? It’s really good!”
“People tend to think their young adults aren’t reading if they’re not reading novels,” Paille says. “But novels aren’t for everyone, and whether it’s a comic book or a gaming guide, all reading helps build comprehension skills and vocabulary.”
Good magazines, with shorter articles suited for easily distracted adolescents, might include Sports Illustrated, People, Seventeen, or Mad.
“When you’re out shopping, think about what they’re interested in and pick up something just for them. Sometimes, it’s as simple as putting the right reading materials right into their hands.”
Ben Martin is the CEO of THE FATHER LIFE. He lives with his wife and five children in the Rochester, NY, area.