How to get your Instagram-obsessed teenager to read a darn book

I walked in our home a few days ago to find “Lord of the Flies” on the kitchen table. I quickly became excited and asked my teenage son if he planned to read the book. He explained it was for his English class and he was deciding whether he was going to read the book or just Google the title and see what he can learn about it on the Internet.

My 17-year-old son doesn’t like to read books. He likes to spend time on his smartphone. He likes to play video games. He likes to play sports. But books hold no interest for him. And that seems to be true for most teenagers these days.

Is it a generational?

My older son is a huge reader. But he is four years older and not as addicted to his phone as my younger son who couldn’t live without it. (He could but I’m sure he doesn’t think so.)

One of my friends used to tell me how much her son loves to read. However, she says now that he is in high school, between homework and video games, he doesn’t make the time for books. I kind of think that’s the direction that Gen Z generation is going. Yet, there are some great Young Adult books out there.

The Vancouver Observer notes: “Reading fiction has significant benefits to the brain including increasing attention span, developing empathy, improving overall social cognition and enhancing reasoning ability. Reading books benefit our teenagers in so many ways.”

As an avid reader, I feel badly that my son has no interest in books and would rather Google the storyline than immerse himself in the world of fiction. I spend just as much time reading to him when he was younger as I did my older son. It just seems like there are SO many more distractions for teenagers and books just don’t seem as exciting. When there’s the lure of Instagram and Snapchat and funny videos, a paperback book assigned by a teacher (or suggested by a mother) holds little allure.

Rather than stew over his lack of interest in books, I bought him a hardcover about fancy cars and an autobiography of his hero Warren Buffet. I know it’s not the same as fiction, but hey, I’m trying.

Worth a try right?

Figured a teenage boy would love this!

Here are some great ideas offered by Howard Eaton of The Vancouver Observer who has some thoughts on how to get a teenage boy to read a book:

Set boundaries on media time per day (TV, video gaming, computer, etc). If there is down time and a book of interest is available, he might just read it.

As a parent, share the findings or ideas from a good book that you are reading with your teenage son. Make it a discussion point at dinner. Read from the book or quote from the book at ask his opinion on this idea or finding.

Encourage your teenage son to read before turning off the lights to sleep. Promote this activity over video gaming just before bedtime.

Play audio books in the car to encourage the love for story-telling.

Take your teenager to a bookstore and talk to a staff member who might be able to find a few books that might be of interest.

If books seem impossible to find, subscribe to a magazine that may be of interest –snowboarding, soccer, and yes, video gaming.

In the summer, go on trips where media does not exist – bring books instead!

Purchase a tablet that can download books.

Join a book club with your teenager or start one.

Discuss with your teenager how reading changes the brain in positive ways. 

These are just a few ideas. Hey, as parents we can get pretty resourceful when we need to, right?

If you have had success getting a high school student to read a novel for fun, let’s hear how you did it. Would love to see more teenagers reading a darn book!

Leave your comments below! And don’t forget to subscribe!

Previous posts of interest:

5 Thing About Raising Teenagers Our Parents Forgot to Tell Us

How My Life with Teens Will be Different in 2019

5 Ways for Parents to Help Their Teen Cope with Stress

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  1. Cheryl February 12, 2019 at 6:52 pm

    Having the exact same problem at my house!

  2. Jen Lebo February 12, 2019 at 10:55 pm

    My daughter is the non reader, believe it or not. My boys are avid readers, but my daughter struggles bc reading is challenging for her. The idea for a book club is so fantastic! I think she and I need to try that! I also bought her a book for us to read together. And I also noticed that she loves graphic novels- they’re easier for her and the photos might feel less boring.
    Thanks for such a GREAT post!


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