Newspapers Can Spur Talk With Teens

Here’s another article from the 2005 NIE Literacy tab on how newspapers can spur talk with teens. 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

You ask your high school-age child, “Where are you going?” and “What are you going to do?” only to hear “Out” and “Nothing” in reply.

If communicating with your teenager seems harder than beating the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, try a different conversation starter—newspapers! The newspaper covers a broad range of topics—from local, national and international news to business, entertainment, health, technology and science. It also includes editorials, opinion articles and letters to the editor. Any of these sections may get your teen to talk and may even spark a healthy debate.

In addition to opening lines of communication, the paper also offers opportunities for building and practicing reading and math skills. Try some of these ideas with your teen:

ASK YOUR TEEN TO READ THE REVIEW OF A NEW MOVIE HE/SHE WANTS TO SEE.  Suggest using the Internet either at home, school or the library to check out how reviewers from around the country feel about the movie. Point out that the reviewers are merely stating their opinions, and everyone’s opinion is not the same. How do the reviews in a West Coast paper differ from those in the East or South?  After he/she has seen the movie, ask your teen how he/she would write the movie review. Is his/her opinion the same or different from the review in your local paper?

NEWSPAPERS PRESENT A LOT OF INFORMATION THROUGH CHARTS, GRAPHS AND MAPS SO THAT PEOPLE CAN ACCESS INFORMATION QUICKLY AND SIMPLY. Point out some charts and maps in your newspaper. Ask your child questions about what they represent. Combining reading and math skills sometimes makes both a little more appealing to teenagers. Have your teen find the number of ads for five or six types of used vehicles (BMW, Corvette, SUV, Toyota Camry, Volkswagen, etc.). What car is featured most often in the used car ads? Which car holds the greatest percentage of the total number of ads? The lowest?

THE HEALTH AND FITNESS SECTION OF THE PAPER CAN TRIGGER MEANINGFUL DISCUSSIONS WITH YOUR TEEN.  Articles on new beauty products, fitness equipment, healthy foods and exercise routines often capture teens’ attention. Parents can build on this interest by asking their teen to plan a week’s worth of dinner menus for the family. Ask him/her to consider a diversity of food groups, cost and preparation time. Give your teen a certain amount of money to spend on the ingredients for the meals and see if he/she can stay within the budget. Prepare some, if not all, of the suggested dinners. Talk about the meal and why your teen chose the food that he/she did.

THE SPORTS PAGES OF THE NEWSPAPER MAY BE THE FIRST SECTION YOUR TEEN TURNS TO.  Games played by local high school, college and professional teams are of special interest. If your teen has a favorite sport, suggest finding out about the history of that sport—how did it get started, in what country did it begin, and what countries play it now? This could be a long-term project involving books from the library, Internet searches or even visits to a sports Hall of Fame museum.

The teenage years can be challenging for both teens and their parents. Having a common meeting ground like the newspaper helps you stay connected.