Your teenage bookworm: How to help your teens choose good books

You want to encourage your teenage bookworm, but not all books are of good quality or reflect the values you want to instill in your family. Here are some ideas for helping your teens choose good books.

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  • So you've got yourself a teenage bookworm. Congratulations!

  • In their article, Benefits of reading as a teen, authors Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S. say that reading as a teen leads to success. Teens that read expand their vocabularies, improve their writing ability and gain skills in handling complex ideas. Reading allows them to pick up more information than their non-reading peers, leading to a solid core of knowledge.

  • Reading can help teens expand their horizons as they learn about different people and places. Books are full of conflict. They can help put teens' problems in perspective and inspire teenagers to develop problem-solving skills.

  • Of course you want to encourage your reader. But there are so many books out there, and not all of them are good quality or reflect the values you try to instill in your teen. How can you help your teen to choose good books?

  • 1. Start early

  • When you show up at your toddler's bedside carrying books such as Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, and Rock-a-bye Farm by Diane Johnston Hamm, you are teaching him that you have good taste in books. Not only are you encouraging a love of reading, but you are building trust that you know good literature.

  • 2. Discover what your child likes

  • My oldest daughter loved J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books, and so did I. I thought that all my children would love Harry Potter. I was mistaken. Don't get me wrong, they thought the books were “fine,” but it didn't appeal to them as much as I expected. Instead, one child loved horror books, another liked more traditional adventure novels and one preferred books with realism. Knowing my children's preferences helped me to make better recommendations for them.

  • 3. Don't judge

  • There is nothing that will turn your teenager off faster than the question, “Why are you reading this junk?” Taste is subjective. There is a reason that book appealed to your teen. Find out what the reason is, and then you can make alternative recommendations.

  • 4. Read the same books

  • You might be surprised, but a lot of books marketed for Young Adult readers are very entertaining for adults as well. Don't rely on a book's reputation to dictate your opinion. Read it yourself.

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  • One of our family's favorite series was The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. We passed each book from person to impatiently waiting person. Then, when the movie became available on DVD, we made a movie night out of it with popcorn, Red Vines, and Milk Duds.

  • 5. Discuss what you've read together

  • You can talk about the characters' motivations and actions and ask your son what he thinks and how he would have reacted if he were in that situation. A book that you might not approve of may turn into a learning experience for your teen. Romance stories can spark a good conversation about the difference between having a crush and being in love, what makes a girl fall in love and how women should be treated in a relationship.

  • 6. Make recommendations

  • Once you know what your teen likes, you can suggest similar titles. For example, my daughters read the Twilight series. I recommended that they might like Running Barefoot by Amy Harmon andFalling For Your Madness by Kathryn Grubb. Both of these stories are also romances.

  • 7. Maintain a full home library

  • Collect good literature and keep it within reach. When your son gets bored, he will have a huge selection of books to choose from.

  • E-readers make this even easier. You don't need a physical bookshelf. I like to download my book recommendations directly to my kids' e-readers. Then, when they are looking for something to read, it pops up right there for them.

  • Encouraging your teenager to read is a good thing. Encouraging her to love good literature is even better.

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Shelli Howells is a creative fiction writer, and a mother of six.

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