Motivating The Middle-School Reader

Here’s an article from the 2005 NIE Literacy tab on motivating your middle school reader. The article, written for the 2005 NIE Literacy tab, comes from the National Center for Family Literacy, a nonprofit organization recognized worldwide as the leader in family literacy development. For more information, visit The tab was produced by the Newspaper Association of America and sponsored by

Does your young teen read a lot? If so, good for you! If not, don’t worry—many teenagers do not place reading high on their priority list. But there’s hope!

Numerous distractions vie for your teen’s attention. During the middle-school years, children often find that their lives begin to revolve around social experiences. Reading is generally considered a solitary experience, which isn’t very appealing to the socially minded adolescent. On top of that, reading can seem like a chore that leads to even more work, like writing book reports or taking quizzes.

Research finds that young teens frequently adopt negative attitudes about reading. Even kids who were strong readers in elementary school may lose enthusiasm as they get older,when reading is associated with homework, and the focus is on subject comprehension. At the same time,however, young teens have a lot of interest in the world around them. Connecting their world to the information that’s available to them may help foster an enthusiastic and lifelong reader.

That’s where your newspaper comes in! Middleschoolers not only read more but also benefit more from their reading when the information they’re exposed to is relevant to their lives. There is a wealth of information in the newspaper that young teens might find interesting, whether it’s an article about a favorite sports star or celebrity, an advertisement for a clothing sale, an editorial about a community issue, horoscopes or the local weather forecast.

Scan the newspaper for articles that would be of particular interest to your child. Then invite him to read an article and tell you what he thinks about it, based on his understanding of the subject matter. Here are some other tips to help motivate a reluctant reader.

ASK QUESTIONS FIRST – AND LATER.  Once you’ve read an article in the newspaper, ask your child questions before she reads it. For example, if the article is about a new fad diet, ask your child whether or not she thinks the diet offers a healthy approach. After he/she reads the article, ask him/her to generate her own questions related to health and diet, and help her find the answers by rereading the article, visiting the library or looking up information on the Internet.

KEEP IT REAL – REAL FUN!  Some adolescents might be embarrassed by reading aloud, but many also have a flair for the dramatic. Look for an article in the newspaper that has a lot of quotes in it. Read it out loud with your child, and act out the quoted passages. Then try reading it like a TV anchorperson in a “just-the-facts” tone. Talk about which version was more fun to listen to and read. Engaging children actively in what they read helps them retain vocabulary, and repeated reading builds fluency.

MAKE IT QUICK. The beauty of an article in a newspaper is that it can be read in one sitting. This means that your child can read the article for an immediate sense of accomplishment and still catch the afternoon movie with his/her friends.With a short investment of time, he/she might also come across some useful information.

LET YOUR CHILD KNOW WHEN YOU READ SOMETHING YOU THINK WOULD INTEREST HIM/HER. You can show an interest in his/her world while encouraging his/her interest in the world around him. Make reading a part of your family’s routine, by stopping by the bookstore or library when shopping or helping your child follow up about a topic on the Internet. The world is out there, and middleschoolers will appreciate having a tour guide.

If you suspect your child has a learning disability that is affecting reading-skills acquisition, visit the site This site has information about assessments of learning disabilities and a section full of tips for parents of children with learning disabilities and Attention Deficit Disorder.

2 Responses

  1. Max Elliot Anderson

    It’s so important to draw attention to reading, and attract reluctant readers to it,especially boys. In fact, I’ve recently completed a feature magazine article on this subject that came out in October, “Help for Struggling, Reluctant Readers.”

    I grew up as a reluctant reader, in spite of the fact that my father published over 70 books. Now I write action-adventures & mysteries, especially for tween boys, that avid boy readers and girls enjoy just as much.

    My blog, Books for Boys is dedicated to drawing attention to the importance of reading. And my new book, Lost Island Smugglers – first in the Sam Butler Adventure Series – coming out in June.

    Keep up your good work.

    Max Elliot Anderson

  2. nierocks

    Thank you for your comments. I look forward to reading your blog. I will also look for your new book coming out in June.

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