Megan Daley: How to keep tweens reading
Life commonly gets busy for with homework and after-school activities for kids once they hit middle/upper primary school. A report commissioned by the State Library of Victoria’s Centre For Youth Literature (CYL) examining the Australian reading landscape found that as students move from primary to secondary school, reading for pleasure declines and even previously keen readers often disengage from literature. The pressure is on to help young people find a balance between reading, social media, socialising, studying and extra-curricular pursuits.
It is also a challenging age in terms of book choices as they begin to transition from younger reader books to middle grade novels and young adult (YA) books. I have plenty of senior primary students at school who get all angsty at my lack of ‘adult content’ books in the junior library, but then I also have many who are still very happy reading tales of fairies and puppies. I see a huge range of reading maturity and it keeps me on my toes catering for the wide variety of reading ages and stages. As always, conversation with individual children and parents are the key to success here.
If you find yourself with a tween or classful of upper primary/lower secondary who have stalled with their reading, I would recommend trying some of the following ideas:
- Sign them up to an online reading challenge like the MS Readathon or the Premier’s Reading Challenges in your state – there is nothing like a bit of pressure to read and the lure of a certificate and/or prizes.
- Offer new books as a reward for tasks done or as end-of-term gifts.
- Read with them. Middle-grade novels are as fabulous for adults as they are children (think of the success of Harry Potter in the adult market). It shows your tween or teen that you value the books they read. It also means you will be present when spontaneous conversations about issues start to flow.
- Read to them. Reading the first chapter or two of a really great middle-grade novel will often pique enough interest for them to pick up the book left lying around.
- Browse blogs, author social media accounts and popular tween magazines and let your child choose their reading material – a sense of independence is all important. Autonomy in reading choices is crucial at this age, but that autonomy can and often should be guided by a parent or teacher.
- Attend book launches, local library events, children’s literature festivals and book shops. There is nothing like meeting an author to inspire reading and middle-grade authors are some of the coolest people you and your tweens will ever meet.
- Join a book club! I run a book club for eleven-year old girls and their mum, grandma, aunt or older sister at my school. I run it like an adult book club and have run them in single sex and co-ed schools for many years now. For many of my participants it’s their favourite co-curricular activity and parents have commented that it’s been such a good way to bond with a child at what can be a tricky time to remain really connected.
Some of these ideas might seem forced, even onerous, but if your child connects with some books they adore then they will be off and flying with their reading again. The effort will be worth it.