Teenagers, reading and summertime


The school bell has rung for the last time until August. The children are free of school and can spend the next few months enjoying fun in the sun, video games, movies and other activities. There is one problem: mom has a summer reading requirement and a stack of books pre-approved for the children to read.

The truth of the matter is most children dislike reading during the summer, when they cannot choose the books. In general, most children dislike being told what to read. Books can open the doors to entirely new worlds of action, adventure, mystery romance and many other genres. Children being forced to read a book, will trudge through it and miss the story. A new study has found a solution: let the children choose the books.

The Study

The study was led by Erin T. Kelly M.D., at the Rochester University Medical Center. Children from kindergarten to second grade were given the chance to select some of their own books for summer reading. The study found more than 75 percent of the students able to select their own books, either improved or maintained reading levels. Children who chose all the books to read did not show the same increase as those who chose some of their own books. By giving children control of which books they read, the children avoid a decline in reading levels.

Kelly explains that achievements in education connect to outcomes in health and, “Reading proficiency, in particular, is a critical skill and an important determinant of health.” Having children spend time reading during the summer will have future benefits.

Another study in 2011, associated with the RAND Corporation finds similar results.  The adolescent achievement gap is measured as results show, “summer learning loss to be cumulative,” and “these periods of differential learning rates between low-income and higher-income students contribute substantially to the achievement gap.” Children from either economical background, who do not read during the summer, fall a month behind in performance. Similar to riding a bike, children who avoid reading or any form of school work for the summer will start the new school term feeling unprepared. The child can choose books of interest and find something he or she will want to read.

The search begins

For teenagers and young adults, finding interesting and exciting books to read for summer can be difficult. Recommending books may not always work for the teenager. Helping them look online, at a bookstore or in a library will give them a chance to decide what they would want to read about. Give the teenager the reins and show them the amount of books for young adults with a realistic message.

Teenagers may not realize how much they can relate to characters from stories. Here are a few books for troubled teenage boys, introducing them to realistic fiction:

  • “Everybody Sees the Ants,” by A.S. King
  • “You,” by Charles Benoit
  • “Right Behind You,” by Gail Giles
  • “Boy Toy,” by Barry Lyga
  • “Last Night I Sang to the Monster,” by Benjamin Alire Saenz

These books cover a range of subjects from drug abuse to behavioral issues, breaking the stereotype of books only living in fantasy and imagination. Young adult fiction can address the darker and realistic themes to which the teenager can relate. Another novel, “Tweak”  by Nic Sheff, uncovers growing up with addiction and facing the repercussions of relapse. This novel covers topics that teenagers may be struggling with, while not attempting to sugar coat it. Teenagers will avoid books or stories that fluff up the truth in an attempt to protect them from things they may already face.

A moving story can help a child explore new worlds, relate to characters and articulate sentiments in ways he could never do in reality. For some teenagers going through family turmoil or struggling with substance abuse, a book may not be enough to help them process events.

White River Academy is a boarding school for troubled boys from ages 12 to 17, struggling with addictions, mental health disorders, or both. WRA provides treatment and care for the boys through disciplined guidance, continues a strong education program and instills character values with service projects promoting positive growth. For more information or to register, feel free to call 866-520-0905.

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