Having discussed what teens read when they do, we come to the thornier question of why so many of them don’t read at all. In a wide sense, I think teens struggle to pick out books they like because they are working out who they are, so haven’t become familiar with their own taste yet – and further, the maturing brain is highly sensitive to reward, so teens find it hard to engage in activities (like reading) that don’t provide instant gratification.
In a more everyday sense, they just feel they have better things to do.
Types of reluctant reader
In a practical sense, and very simply speaking, the reluctant teen readers fall into two categories:
A lot of teens lose interest in reading because their everyday lives just got interesting. Why on earth would anyone want to pick up a book when they just found out Chloe made out with Jasper even though she knows Katie is into him and they were supposed to go to prom together – and when she knows there was already so much drama with Kieran and David over that party last weekend? When your phone is blowing up with social engagements and intrigue, it’s pretty much enough to keep you entertained and a book would just take you away from your immediate interest: your social life..
These teens pathologically avoid anything they’re ‘supposed’ to do. There’s already so much stuff you have to do that you don’t want to do. Homework. After school clubs. Family dinners. Chores. Curfews. And now apparently you have to read? Why would you want to do that? Books are mentally draining, they’re long and annoying to follow and your parents are pressuring you into it because it’s ‘good for your vocabulary’ or whatever, and ‘better for you than your phone’. The annoying thing is, that book over there looks really interesting but it would be so much effort and, most importantly, your mum just told you you should read it so obviously now that’s the last thing you’re going to do.
This is, of course, a very simplistic division; you may have a mixture of the two types, or one whose time is simply taken up by other hobbies. But in my experience these are the two most awkward types of reluctant teen reader. It’s not the books themselves that they have a problem with; its the role that reading plays in their lives. Luckily, if you approach it right, it’s possible to get them to read – come back next week to find out how.