How to encourage teenagers — especially boys — to read this summer

By Karen MacPherson  for The Washington Post

Many parents naturally worry about getting their teenagers to read during the summer, but the stakes may feel especially high this year, after months of “distance learning.” When it comes to teens and reading, definitions count.

Yes, surveys show that teens are reading less, a slump that begins in middle school. But many experts think the definition survey makers use is too narrow, and reflects the way we often instinctively define “reading” as reading fiction in general, and literary fiction in particular. And reading it in print, not digitally.

Today’s teens are reading, both in print and online, according to education experts, librarians and teachers. But what they are reading — horror and dystopian novels, magazine profiles of sports figures, online news articles, etc. — frequently isn’t counted in surveys as “reading.”

Although reading a news article is not the same as reading a novel or a narrative nonfiction book, experts say it isn’t helpful for adults to dismiss the reading that many teens are doing.

In their book “Reading Unbound: Why Kids Need to Read What They Want — and Why We Should Let Them,” adolescent literacy experts Michael W. Smith and Jeffrey D. Wilhelm spotlight the fact that the kids they studied had a “surprisingly rich engagement with texts that we didn’t much value.” According to Smith, a secondary education professor at Temple University, “Many were avid readers of marginalized texts.”

That’s particularly true of teen boys. As recounted in their earlier book, “Reading Don’t Fix No Chevys,” Smith and Wilhelm’s studies found that many teen boys are interested in reading books and other materials through which they learn something, such as the history of a favorite sport or even car manuals. They find pleasure in becoming an expert on something. (Of course, this also is true for many girls.)

Read more here.

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