Motivating Reluctant Readers: How to Encourage Teens and Tweens to Read

Do you find yourself struggling to motivate your kids to read, track their progress, and organize their thoughts about books? If your teens and tweens are reluctant readers, it can be challenging to encourage them to pull out a book and read. In this article, I’m going to share some tips and ideas that will not only help you navigate these obstacles but also empower your tweens and teens through the joy of reading. 

Why does motivating reluctant readers matter?

Why is it important for kids to read? Reading contributes to the development of our children’s minds. It helps them improve cognitive skills and expand knowledge. Not only that, but it also enhances empathy by allowing them to step into different worlds and understand diverse perspectives. When they get lost in a book, they embark on exciting adventures, explore new worlds, and meet fascinating characters. 

Reading is more than just a pastime; it’s a gateway to knowledge and personal growth. As parents, it’s crucial for us to highlight the benefits of reading for our tweens and teens. So how can we instill a love for reading in our tweens and teens?

Overcoming Lack of Motivation for Reading

One effective way to encourage a love of reading in our kids is by sharing personal stories about how books have impacted our own lives. Let them see our enthusiasm when we talk about our favorite novels or how a particular story changed our perspective. By making reading relatable and exciting, we can ignite that same passion in our tweens and teens.

Let’s face it – getting tweens and teens excited about anything can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. But no worries – I’ve got some tips that we can employ to inspire a love for reading in our children.

First things first- introduce your tweens and teens to captivating book genres that align with their interests. Whether they’re into fantasy, mystery, or even graphic novels, finding books that resonate with their passions will make reading much more enjoyable. Take them to the bookstore or library and let them explore different sections. If they’re not already familiar with how to choose a book, teach them how to do it!  Don’t assume that they were taught how to do so in school.  This digital generation is sometimes uneducated about how the old-fashioned world works. 

Show them how the library or bookstore is divided into sections, and then how the books within the sections are ordered alphabetically by the author’s last name.  Show them how you can read the back of the book or the inner flap to get a taste of what the book is about.  And while it’s a saying to not “choose a book by its cover,” there’s no reason not to start out looking around that way!  Pick up books with interesting covers and take a look at the blurbs that describe them.  Encourage them to choose books that speak to their hearts.  Many bookstores have “staff picks” that you can peruse.  The store I go to has paper descriptions taped to the shelves that describe which books are chosen as staff favorites and why.

You also can ask librarians and book sellers for guidance.  These people love books, and they are often excited to get a chance to give recommendations.  Tell them what you’ve liked in the past, and they can likely give you suggestions for things you might like.

Taking my teens to a bookstore is one of my family’s favorite outings.  I hate to admit it but…bribery works.  If you are trying to drum up motivation, letting your kids know that you’ll buy them one or two shiny new books can get them to the store.  Does your bookstore have a coffee shop in it or nearby?  Well then, “kids, let’s go get a special drink or a cookie!” will likely get reluctant readers into the car and headed to the bookstore.

You also could let them bring a friend along.  Encourage them to choose a book that’s a friend’s favorite, or better yet to each get the same book and have a mini book club!  That can really get teens and tweens motivated to read.

Another idea for motivating reluctant readers is to create a cozy reading nook! Find a comfortable spot in your home where they can curl up with a good book. Add some soft pillows, warm blankets, and maybe even a string of fairy lights to create a magical atmosphere that will make them eager to dive into their next literary adventure.  If reading is a comfortable and inviting experience, teens will be more likely to choose it as a way to spend their time.

And don’t forget about setting aside dedicated reading time! By making reading a part of their daily routine, we’re showing our kids that it’s a priority and something to look forward to. Make it a family affair by designating a specific hour each day when everyone in the household reads together. Creating a sense of routine can help get the habit going. And doing it as a family reinforces the importance of reading as a shared experience.

Tracking Reading Progress

Now that we’ve sparked their interest in reading, how do we ensure they stay on track? Luckily, we live in a digital age where countless tools and apps can assist us in monitoring our child’s reading progress.

I love to use Goodreads – an online platform that allows users to create virtual bookshelves, set reading goals, and track their progress. Encourage your tween or teen to create their own Goodreads account and start building their personal library. It’s fun to connect with friends and see what others are reading. They can also join virtual book clubs and engage with other readers who share similar interests. Here’s my Goodreads profile if you want to be friends on the platform!

Another handy app is Bookly, which not only tracks reading time but also provides insightful statistics about reading habits. I haven’t tried it yet, but I took a look at it and it looks like it could be really fun and useful.  It has a feature that rewards users with badges for achieving milestones. This gamification aspect can be highly motivating for our tech-savvy kids.

Tracking progress not only helps your child stay motivated but also gives them a sense of accomplishment. If you don’t want to go the tech route, you can use a good old-fashioned paper version. 

Here are a few low-tech ways you can keep track of their reading journey:

  • Reading logs: Get a simple log where your child can record the titles of the books they’ve read, along with the date and their thoughts about each book.  These might be called a “reading tracker” or “book log.”  
  • Reading Journals: These are a more detailed version of a reading log.  Instead of just listing books, teens can spend some time journaling about their thoughts on the books.  Many teens and tweens find it fun to write reviews and do ratings for the books they read.  
  • Reading challenges: Set up some fun challenges! For example, choose a number of books to read in a certain time frame, such as to read 10 books in a month, or 10 books during summer break, or 30 books in the year. Reward them with small incentives for reaching their goals. Click here to see my summer reading challenge as an example – there’s a free reading challenge PDF available in the article.

I offer several different reading journals in my Etsy shop. Click on the images to take a look!

Want some suggestions for books for tweens and teens? Take a look at my book recommendations!

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