I was recently out with a friend, lamenting my struggles with getting kids, especially teenagers, to be interested in reading. My friend’s first response to my woes was, “Tell them about that Super Bowl winner who’s in a book club. That’ll make them want to read.” I immediately started Googling. How had I not heard about this? (Easy. My level of interest in football is about the same as that of the current interest in reading of the kids I was talking about in the first place.)
It turns out that New England Patriots’ player Malcolm Mitchell discovered a love of reading while in college. Realizing he was falling behind in his classes, likely due to the fact that he was reading at a junior high level, Mitchell decided to do something about it. He went into a Barnes and Noble in search of something to read and asked a woman there for a book recommendation. She responded that she was there picking up that month’s book for her book club. Mitchell immediately asked if he could join her book club and soon found himself a member of a book club otherwise made up of middle-aged women. For the rest of his time in college, Mitchell attended the monthly book club meetings, participating in the book discussions and even sometimes offering titles for the club to read. Now that he has moved away, he still texts with the book club ladies to make sure he’s keeping up with the books and attends meetings when he can.
This story is an example of the transformative power of reading. Mitchell’s teammates and coaches now say it’s not uncommon to find him reading in the locker room and he even started a children’s literacy foundation, Read With Malcolm, to encourage kids to read. Maybe my friend was right – maybe kids will think that if a Super Bowl winner thinks it’s fun to read, it must be!
Tips for Encouraging Reluctant Readers
One of the best ways to encourage kids and teenagers to read is to let them choose their own books. Reading should be enjoyable, not an arduous task that kids feel forced to do. If kids pick out books on their own that interest them and that they find enjoyable, it is much more likely that they will stick with them than it is if someone else tells them what they have to read. Especially for reluctant readers, there are no bad books! Books that adults might think are silly, such as a teen romance or Harry Potter, are beneficial just by virtue of the fact that they are getting kids and teenagers to read. There is likely more value in these books than adults give them credit for.
Once kids are reading, talk to them about their books! Being able to talk about a book is a skill that will be beneficial both in and out of the classroom as kids start preparing for college and beyond. The more they read and the more they talk about what they read, the more they will be able to articulate their ideas and opinions in a mature, effective way.
It can be difficult for reluctant readers to get over the hurdle of thinking of reading as a chore, but once they do, they’re setting themselves up for success. I have seen a noticeable correlation between students’ interest in reading and their grades, writing abilities, and scores on the SAT and ACT. I can’t say enough about the benefits of reading! If you would like some book recommendations, check out this post or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you!
The following articles may be of interest.
More about Malcolm Mitchell’s book club experience:
Tips for encouraging teenagers to read:
The benefits of Sustained Silent Reading in schools: