How to Get Your Tween to Read More Than Just the Cereal Box

Posted December 14, 2018  | Written by PJ Our Way Team

Family sitting on the couch reading PJOW books

By Carla Naumburg, PhD

Getting our little ones in front of a book is relatively easy. They’re desperate for our attention and the stories are short and readable. But as our children move into their tween years, their love of literacy can get buried under reading logs and timers set for fifteen minutes and endless reminders that no you can’t have any screen time until you finish.

Ugh. Who wants to read like that?

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve got fifteen strategies that will get your tween psyched about reading again. You don’t have to do them all; pick the ones that work for you and your family.

  1. Read books. Actual books.
    I know I said you don’t have to do them all, but this one is non-negotiable. The hard truth is that we can’t give our children what we don’t have, so if you’re not a reader, it’s going to be hard to raise one. So, pick up a book you actually want to read (ideally a real book, not a screen), and dig in. (If you’re struggling to get back on the book horse, this list may be helpful to you, too!)
  2. Talk to your children about what you’re reading now, or what you read at their age.
    Our kids are endlessly (and sometimes annoyingly!) interested about us, so go ahead and indulge their curiosity. Unless you’re on a romance or true crime kick, in which case, you might want to, um, summarize.
  3. Read to your kids.
    The fun doesn’t have to end once they move on to chapter books. The trick here is to pick books that you enjoy too. If you’re not digging a particular book, but they want to read it, GREAT! They can finish it themselves. #winning
  4. Let someone else read to your kids.
    Audiobooks are awesome, and you can often check them out of the library for free. Ask your librarian to point you in the right direction.
  5. Don’t censor their choices.
    I’m not saying you should leave your Holocaust memoirs all over the house, but go ahead and set your children loose in the tween section of the library or bookstore and leave it at that. If you’re concerned about their selection, read it with them or talk to them about it, but don’t forbid it. (Unless you actually want them to read something, in which case that’s a brilliant move.)
  6. Don’t judge their terrible taste in books.
    Kids read dumb stuff; it’s just what they do. My daughters are into these ridiculous “This or That” books (where the reader has to choose between two terrible options) and Pokémon books (UGH). Who am I to judge? I devoured Archie and Veronica when I was young. Don’t stress, and don’t give them a hard time about it.
  7. Read what they read so you can talk about it.
    Unless you can’t stand what they’re reading, in which case, don’t. Or it’s too long, in which case, Google it. (If it’s a PJ Our Way selection, check out the summaries we’ve written up for each book.)
  8. Resist the urge to nag.
    Nobody likes to be nagged, especially about something that’s supposed to be fun. Treat books like glitter (ok, really heavy and less sparkly glitter): sprinkle them everywhere and then ZIP IT.
  9. Make liberal use of your library.
    Go often and let your kids pick out whatever they want. If you’re tempted to censor, judge, or nag, please go back and re-read this list again.
  10. Get them hooked into a series.
    There are SO many good series out there these days, they’ve even got their own NYTimes Bestseller List.
  11. Bribe them with the movie.
    Lots of great books are being made into movies, and movies are fun. Read the book, watch the film, discuss. Just don’t forget the popcorn.
  12. Don’t forget about non-fiction.
    My younger daughter is currently obsessed with spy books, including a super weird book about the Mossad. Think about what your kids are into, whether it’s fashion, basketball, baby sloths, or Minecraft. I guarantee you there’s a book for that.
  13. Consider a Kindle or other dedicated eReader.
    Some children just have an easier time reading off a screen, and you can check out digital books from most libraries. Just don’t hand them an all-purpose tablet; you don’t want to spend the whole time making sure they’re not sneaking screen time.
  14. Get them into a book club.
    Your local library may already host one; if not, start one for your children and their friends. Just remember, let them pick what they read and don’t stress if they don’t talk about the book for very long. No self-respecting book club actually does that.
  15. Let them pick their own PJOW books!
    If, for some reason, you’re choosing their books each month, well, stop. It only takes a couple of minutes and will dramatically increase the likelihood they’ll actually read it.

About Carla

Carla Naumburg, PhD, LICSW is a parent coach, writer, and speaker. She is the author of three parenting books, including the forthcoming How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t With Your Kids (Workman, 2019). Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and Mindful Magazine, among other places. Carla is a consultant for PJ Our Way, and she lives outside of Boston with her husband, two daughters, and two totally insane cats.
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