Modern teenagers are probably more likely to be caught reading texts and emails than reading the classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird or A Tale of Two Cities. However, just because these classic books that teens really should be reading aren’t willingly and purposefully added to their backpacks doesn’t mean we should give up on them experiencing some of the most famous literature in print. Wanting kids to read the classics and actually getting them to do it enthusiastically can be two separate things entirely. Here are 8 ways to help teens reach for some good old fashioned tales and adventures.
1. Get involved with the school curriculum. If your child’s school is moving away from required reading, find out why and take some steps to encourage them to keep teaching the classics. Parents’ and community members’ voices are strong, so gather some like-minded people and petition to bring back titles like The Old Man and the Sea and The Count of Monte Cristo.
2. Set a good example. Read some of the classics you loved reading as a child or read some of them that you never had the privilege to be assigned in school. My husband recently read The Grapes of Wrath for the first time and was quite struck by the book – and the fact that he felt he should have read it years ago.
3. Make it a family project. I have the luxury of homeschooling my children and assigning them the classics as part of their school curriculum. We do, however, manage to squeeze in more reading by making reading the books a family endeavor. Your teen probably won’t show you too much appreciation if you just drop off a stack of books on his bed and tell him to read them before Christmas. Instead, bring one book into the house that you think might resonate with the kids – if you bring out Little Women for your 2 teenage sons, you might have to do some fast talking. You can tackle the book in two different ways, depending on the preferences of your kids:
- Do it as a read-aloud, sharing a chapter or two a few nights each week.
- Do it as a group read where everyone agrees to read so many pages, and then you can have a pizza party once a week or so to discuss what you think so far.
4. Start with developing a love for reading. Not every child seems naturally inclined to read just for the pure enjoyment of it. Find some ways to make reading come alive for your kids so that tackling the language of the classics isn’t as daunting. I also make sure that each of my children is reading every day.
5. Watch a movie. I almost always think that the book is better than the movie, but if you have an extremely reluctant teen reader, starting with a classic movie might be the key to getting him interested in reading a classic. Bring out the popcorn and maybe even turn it into a game of Who’s Movie is Best? and agree to watch one of the movies your teen really wants to see (even if it is a zombie-filled one).
6. Use technology. E-readers are becoming more and more accessible in price, and the titles available are becoming greater and greater. Even if you are reluctant to invest in an electronic reader, would you change your mind if you knew your child would then be more inclined to read historically significant literature? Sometimes meeting our kids half-way is better than standing on one side and waiting for them to reach us where we want to be.
7. Be sly. Teens are already at a point in their lives when they want to feel that each and every decision they make is their own. If you approach them with a book-list you might be asking for more than you want to handle in terms of rejection, so reach your child without overt attempts. Get a classic book on CD and listen to it in the house or while driving in the vehicle. Again, make sure it is a title or storyline that would be likely to appeal to your child.
8. Make it a party. Teens love parties, so combine your desire to have your kids get familiar with classic literature with your teen’s desire to have some fun with friends. Partner with your teen to get her and her friends reading a classic book, with the culminating event being a wrap party for the book. The kids can watch the movie, dress in appropriate vintage attire, and you can supply the ever-needed movie snacks.