Thursday, May 27, 2010

What to Do With those Teenagers and Reading

Well, in my personal household, this is uncharted waters. Matthew is playing around with the tween attitude, but we haven't hit full on girlfriends, texting, and, well, with boys, other unmentionables that they will not let me in on, I am sure.

I have taught many teenagers though. And my hat's off to Middle and High School teachers. I can do it, but I much prefer laying the groundwork for ya'll and dealing with tattling and whining.

When I did work with teens, I first searched the depths of my memory to think about what I experienced in my own 13-18 years of age. I have great memories : friends, cheerleading, boyfriends, good teachers/grades. But there were the downs too : friends, cheerleading, boyfriends, teachers/grades. Couple this with body changes...oh my gosh - how did I make it?

I thought about how low tech we were then too...the internet? Not on a cell phone. Texting? Not yet.

So today's kids have not only the challenges I faced to try and concentrate on school, but a WHOLE LOT MORE, and a WHOLE LOT FASTER AND SOONER.

I use a couple strategies to get them into reading and writing.

First off, I don't try to relate too much. I can't. They know it, and they smell fake. So keep it real with what you know.

I approached them slowly, like cats. I let them get used to me. I stood my ground. I asked them to do things, and didn't pander.

I got material they liked. I let curse words go when we were reading. I didn't censor. But we talked about it, and why authors would do that, and how that isn't necessarily what you hear from teachers.

Boy teens -- sports and humor. They tend to make fun of a lot of things, so sometimes you have to ignore that and keep pushing for the feelings. When something sad in a book happens, they brush it off and laugh. I would, individually, get them in response journals. Again, ignore the first writings...they will try to be surface and silly to bug you. Dig. Make them dig. Find those little boys inside that still have those feelings and remember what it's like to lose the championship game, or their dog dies.

Girls are a little easier - but they are flighty and chatty. Keep them interested by knowing what they talk about with their friends. Don't pry, just be aware.

Teens love their phones...and texting...but you are the parent. I know, I don't know yet the battles that I will wage. But I do know that I have boys now who love to read, so I am hoping that, although they probably won't want to read as much, they will when they are older. I just have to keep channelling them down that road.

I can't say enough about the content. It matters. If it is poorly written, they will not read it. They want current. They need it.

Look at the graphic novels out there.

But please, please read what your teens are reading. There is so much good out there, but there is just as much out there that you need to monitor.

Kindles are another idea. I don't personally like to read with them, but if your teen is addicted to technology, that might motivate them.

My respects to all parents of teens...I will be calling YOU in about 3 years...

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