How to Influence Teens to Read in Smartphone Culture

You need to know how to influence teens to read! Because teenage students are reading less and less…

A high school political science teacher, Mr. Jeremy Adams claims impassionately in the Los Angeles Times. In it, Adams cries that his students have a lack of interest in reading, and places the blame on the prominence of smartphone culture.

No matter what your views are, I think you can agree that Adams is correct in the fact that teenagers are not reading nearly as much as they should these days.

There was a 2016 study that suggests that a one-third of U.S. teenagers haven’t read a book for pleasure during the past year. The researchers found out that digital media has replaced consumption of books and magazines with digital media.

On the other hand, a 2018 study in the UK found out that secondary students aren’t choosing challenging books, as much as they usually would during their primary grades. Unfortunately, it’s a choice that doesn’t support a sustained level of reading comprehension, which won’t imply much success when they’re at the college level.

But is the smartphone culture really to blame?

These findings with teenagers are worrisome, but is technology really to blame? Is it necessary to put a blanket derision over phones and teenagers’ entire engagement with digital media?

Instead of completely demonizing devices or worrying too much about our current technological landscape, it’s better to focus on the foundational skills of reading. That includes reading efficiency, self-confidence and motivation, and comprehension — which is very important.

Whether you like it or not, teenagers’ use of smartphones and social media aren’t going to fade into obscurity any time soon.

Still, it’s more important to set young people up for reading success within our current environment.

The best part is that they can do that regardless of the existence of smartphones and other kinds of technology..

How to Influence Teens to Read

And to that end, here are tips from the Dicker Reading Method that can be shared with, students, parents, and other educators — change-makers doing their best to support teens and their eventual lifelong love of reading.

#1 Be a great role model

The goal is to inspire teenagers to read more, so it’s absolutely necessary to be a good role model yourself. As a parent, an educator, or a guardian, be mindful of your own unlimited scrolling time.

Because that old saying, “Do as I say, not as I do,” won’t influence teenagers properly. It starts with limiting your own screen time, and making room in your daily routine for reading, whether that’s on paper or through a smartphone.

#2 Spend screen time together

Don’t stop at modeling reading behavior. Lots of parents and monitors already know that reading to younger children has a positive effect on literacy. So it makes sense that spending screen time together can be beneficial as well.

Of course, it’s going to be a bit challenging, doing it with teenagers. But having a genuine interest in your teen’s digital pursuits opens up plenty of opportunities for communication. This way,  you position yourself to be a champion of reading instead of the overly-strict smartphone-police.

#3 Don’t coerce teenagers

This is a crucial part of knowing how to influence teens to read…

It’s tempting to enforce a designated reading time for teens who are less eager, but it’s not a good idea to employ coercion in the process. Don’t force teenagers to read what you want them to read, or take away their devices until reading happens. This will only discourage them from reading.

#4 Expand the reading collection

Expand your definition of what great content looks like to you. What you want to do is to leverage your teenager’s interests to support learning and their achievements when it comes to reading.

You need to do it, even if that entails learning about and gathering content that’s outside of your own comfort zone. If that means looking through visual novels, then sure. Fanfiction on AO3 or reading books on Wattpad, then might as well.

Reading content that they love can help teenagers be more efficient at reading down the line.

#5 Ensure good content is accessible

To encourage learning and an organic love of reading, you need to make great content accessible at school, at home, and while they’re on-the-go.

Place interesting reading materials around the house. Maybe collect some of your old favorites and put the books together in a bookshelf.

If there’s not enough space in the house for numerous bookshelves, there are lots of reading apps available on a play-store to try out. There are libraries that lend digital content, and listening to audio books or podcasts can spark interest in reading too.

The Takeaway

Reading as a teen leads to success. This is why reading programs like ours don’t skimp on providing reading tutoring for teens and children above grade level. When teenagers get a taste for reading more than just their classroom assignments, the research clearly shows that they can do generally well in school.

The extra reading expands vocabularies, and it shows them how different writers put their thoughts down on paper. As your teenagers read, they pick up even more information, and this results in a solid core of knowledge that’s useful for a wide variety of classes.


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