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How to Teach Teenagers to Read

by Erin Schreiner, studioD

Teen illiteracy or deficiency in reading skills is a major issue in the U.S. A 2002 analysis of the results from a standardized test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that 26 percent of all 12th-graders were reading at a “below basic” level, according to Education World. If you suspect your teen struggles with reading, be proactive and help your teen become a skilled and capable reader.

Identify the teen’s specific struggles. Listen to your teen read aloud, and pose questions after he reads a passage to develop an understanding of where he is struggling. If he struggles with pronouncing words correctly, focus on fluency and letter sounds. If he can pronounce words well, but isn’t able to summarize a passage after finishing it, focus on comprehension. By tailoring your work to his specific area of struggle, you can increase the degree to which your efforts yield the desired improvement, according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

Provide the teen with meaningful and engaging material. While it might seem logical to try to instruct a teen on the fundamentals of reading with texts intended for primary school students, doing so is demeaning and demotivating, states Allan Starkey, coordinator of language arts in Howard County, in an article for "The Baltimore Sun." Select reading material on a topic that interests your teen, Starkey suggests.

Read aloud to the teen. Sit next to your teen and read aloud to her, suggests the National Writing Project. Hearing your oral reading provides the teen with model pronunciations and gives her insight into how good readers decode their texts. As she becomes more comfortable and competent in her reading, take turns reading the text out loud.

Teach your teen a strategy. Reading is a complex process involving not just physically pronouncing words, but also understanding the content of a passage. Provide your teen reader a tool such as the CSR model, recommends the National Center for Learning Disabilities. Using this approach, a reader previews what she will read, identifies difficult to understand parts of the passage, summarizes the passage and reports on his overall understanding of the passage. Guide your teen though this process to cement his understanding of these steps.

Motivate your teen to read. To become a better reader, your teen needs to read often. Motivate your reader by offering her incentives to read, praising her reading efforts and discussing the content of what she is reading regularly. Additionally, model reading for pleasure by reading regularly, proving to her that you practice what you preach.


  • Don’t tackle this task alone. Get together with your teen’s school, sharing your concerns and asking them to assist you in developing a plan to accommodate your child’s academic need. By communicating effectively with your teen’s school, you can improve the likelihood that he receives the support he requires both at home and at school.

About the Author

Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.

Photo Credits

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