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Getting Teens to Turn the Page

Reading well is an important skill for young adults to have in order to achieve economic success. But, many students score below proficient in reading achievement. Here are tips to help encourage your teen to read more.

Being able to read well is more important than ever for young adults to achieve economic success. But more than 60 percent of middle and high school students score below “proficient” in reading achievement, according to a December 2011 report by the Alliance for Excellent Education.

“Teen literacy is a huge problem in the United States—its 15-year-olds rank 14th among developed nations in reading, behind Poland, Estonia, and Iceland,” says Rhiannon Paille, a mom of two and advocate for teen literacy whose new fantasy novel Flame of Surrender targets young adults.

The best thing parents can do to help boost their 12- to 18-year-olds’ literacy is to get them reading…well, anything. Paille offers the following suggestions:

Buy them comic books. Boys persistently lag behind girls in reading, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, Paille says. If your son isn’t a reader, try getting him hooked on comic books. Famed author Stephen King says he started off reading comics like Tales from the Crypt. From comic books, they may move into graphic novels, a popular young adult genre. As long as they’re reading, they’re building comprehension skills and vocabulary, so it needn’t be War and Peace.

Look for book-to-film novels. Chances are, if it was a great movie, they saw it, and that’s often enough to get a non-reader curious. This is another especially good hook for boys, Paille says.

Tune in to what they’re interested in. What kinds of video games do they play? Some popular games have spawned novels, including Halo, EverQuest, ElfQuest, and Gears of War. Even gaming guides, which players read to unlock new clues to advancing in the game, can motivate a teen to crack open a book.

Read the same book your teen is reading. Book clubs are popular because people like talking to others who’ve read the same book. Your teen may not be ready for an evening of petit fours and grape juice while discussing the pacing of The Hunger Games, but it can make for some interesting conversation on the way to soccer practice. And you can always nudge them along with comments like, “Oh, you haven’t gotten to that part yet? It’s really good!”

“People tend to think their young adults aren’t reading if they’re not reading novels,” Paille says. “But novels aren’t for everyone, and whether it’s a comic book or a gaming guide, all reading helps build comprehension skills and vocabulary.”

Good magazines, with shorter articles suited for distractible adolescents, include Sports Illustrated, People, Seventeen, and Mad.

When you’re out shopping, think about what they’re interested in and pick up something just for them. Sometimes, it’s as simple as putting the right reading materials into their hands.

Summer Book Recommendations for Teens

Halo Book CoverAs your teen awaits the wildly popular Halo video game series’ fourth installment (set to release in November), encourage him to pass the time by reading any of the comic, graphic novel, or novel adaptations—like this one, a paperback version of “Halo: The Flood” published earlier this year. Courtesy

Flame of Surrender Book CoverCompared by critics to both J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling, author Rhiannon Paille’s newest YA fantasy novel, “Flame of Surrender,” is the first in her The Ferryman and The Flame series. Its 280 pages of mystery and imaginative prose may be enough to keep your teen hooked until the second book, “Flame of Justice,” is released in October. Courtesy Coscom Entertainment
The Hunger Games Book CoverWith all the hype about The Hunger Games trilogy, there’s a good chance your teen saw the first film when it hit theaters this spring. If she’s dying to know the outcome of the Peeta-Katniss-Gale love triangle, bring her home the second book in the series, “Catching Fire” (spoiler alert: Katniss doesn’t quite figure out her heart in this one, either—but there’s a twist in the middle neither of you will be able to stop talking about). Courtesy Scholastic
The Amazing Spider-Man CoverWith “The Amazing Spider-Man” and a new Batman movie (“The Dark Knight Rises”) hitting theaters this month, not to mention the surplus of similar films we’ve seen in the past year, it’s obvious that comic book heroes have wide appeal. Get your teen interested in some on-page adventures—you can start by browsing or Courtesy Marvel


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