As kids, my husband and I both remember getting caught reading way after lights out. Even now, we can be tempted by a particularly enjoyable book to stay up later than is good for us. But this doesn’t seem as common nowadays, as more kids (and adults!) are reading less.

While there are reasons for this, including the extent to which we find ourselves on screens, those of us who homeschool usually place a high value on reading and want it to be important to our children as well. Many of us read aloud to our little ones and make reading a cornerstone of home education. But as our kids get older, and online classes and outside activities begin to dominate, it can be tough to maintain a culture of reading.

In my family, I have one teen who loves to read and stays up too late doing it. But I have another teen who struggles to love reading or to make time for it outside of her required coursework. I find myself wondering how to make reading fun rather than a drudgery, especially in this season where she has less and less free time.

Here are three methods that I have found to encourage reading in the teen years.

1. Social Reading

A few years back, my kids’ debate coach sent out a reading list at the end of the season and suggested that debaters pick a couple of titles to read over the summer to encourage intellectual discipline.

I saw it as an excellent opportunity to get the debate students together in the off-season and provide an accountability structure to summer reading. I started selecting the books I wanted to read. That first summer, we learned to send out a few key questions before our meeting to help get the discussion rolling. And while the adults often dominated, the teens made important contributions. And they came back the next year.

And then last year, the students came to me with the titles they wanted to read and discuss. They took on some tough reading and many of their parents eagerly joined in. So, once a month between June and September, we started off with dinner together and a discussion. Every meeting had one or two discussion leaders—sometimes a person with some expertise, sometimes a parent just willing to read the book and lead the conversation. It’s been gratifying to hear my kids reference something they read or discussed in these gatherings. My more reticent reader benefits the most, interested in sharing a body of knowledge with peers.

Book groups of all sorts have been an important part of my life, and the chance to get my kids hooked young has proved rewarding.

2. Family Reading

Reading together as a family is harder to do as kids get older and schedules align less frequently. However, we hold on to the tradition of reading a devotional book together as a family most evenings during Lent and Advent. I still read books and periodicals aloud to my husband (and any kids who will listen) on long car trips.

Though it occurs less often now, we have enjoyed reading a book and then watching the movie version together. My oldest daughter read The Little Princess and Jane Eyre, so we watched the movies together as a family. More of us got on board for The Lord of the Rings Trilogy after I read it aloud. My husband read and watched The Hunger Games with my youngest daughter who loves the dystopian genre. Personally, I think we are due for some Jane Austen.

3. Individual Reading

At the end of year, my husband tells us how many books he read during the year, and often provides a goal for the coming one. This really captured the attention of my daughter who is less inclined to read. She is competitive by nature, and after hearing the value placed on reading by others, she established her own goals. Simply setting the example of carving out time is helpful in creating a culture of reading.

Some Other Tips

Do you ever struggle to figure out what your high schooler should read? Check out The Classical Reader, which has reading recommendations that can be sorted by grade, reading level, and genre.

Here are some personal recommendations, taken from the titles we have read in our summer book group so far:

  • The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis)
  • Les Misérables (Victor Hugo)
  • Orthodoxy (G.K. Chesterton)
  • Discrimination and Disparities (Thomas Sowell)
  • A Conflict of Visions (Thomas Sowell)
  • The Death of Ivan Ilyich (Leo Tolstoy)
  • The Man Born To Be King (Dorothy Sayers)
  • 1984 (George Orwell)
  • 12 Rules For Life (Jordan Peterson)
  • Till We Have Faces (C.S. Lewis)
  • Basic Economics (Thomas Sowell)

Just as our children are all different from each other, there are different methods that are likely to work with each kid! Working to find what works is the important first step.