How to Inspire Your Teen to Read

photo courtesy of Marta Darby

The following is a guest post by Latina blogger and homeschooling mami, Marta Verdes Darby of My Big Fat Cuban Family.

“Why do they always assign such boring books in school?”

The conversations around our dinner table are often lively and loud and usually start off with a pointed question. We recently had one such discussion about reading assignments and high school.
My daughter, Lucy, is 19 and just finished her second year of college. My son, Jonathan, is going to be a high school senior. They’re both home educated.

As a homeschooling family, we pretty much spent most of our days reading. Our educational philosophy started with the premise that as long as they were able to read and engaged in learning, they would be well prepared for life. That has definitely been the case.
Their high school experience has been through online classes at an accredited high school based on an Independent Study Program. In other words, they have to follow and meet the standards assigned to all other California high school students.
Back to the “boring book” question…

Jonathan pointed out that he loves to read. He enjoys fantasy and loves a well crafted story with a happy ending. It MUST have a happy ending. Most of his friends do, too. He and Lucy both love to get lost in a story.
The books assigned in school, he argued, meet none of their criteria. After the assigned reading come the “critical thinking” questions, which seem to start off with the assumption that the reader is not thinking at all as he or she reads and so must be prompted to think.

If you’ve ever listened to young adults discussing a book that they love with characters that they can relate to, you know there’s no need for prompting. They are naturally curious. They naturally question motivation. They love to discuss plot and details. They naturally make suggestions about what they might have done differently or how they would have taken a plot twist in a different direction. They will easily share disappointments and story successes. In other words, they must be engaged.

Find some honest and well told stories. The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling immediately come to mind. Or the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. There are some fabulous Latino authors, as well. We recommend: Christina Diaz Gonzalez, who wrote The Red Umbrella and A Thunderous Whisper; Chantel Acevedo’s Song of the Red Cloak; Torrey Maldonado’s Secret Saturdays; and for Spanish readers, Paola B. Sur, who wrote the haunting El Lago de los Milagros.

The thing that keeps teen readers coming back for more is the same thing that keeps adults interested in a good book: a great story with unforgettable characters, a hero to relate to, excitement, tension, difficult questions, and, the most necessary ingredient in my son’s opinion…a happy ending.


Marta Darby is an avid blogger, business owner, Cuban cook, graphic designer, scrapbooker, photographer and homemaker. She was born in Havana and left Cuba with her family when she was 5 years old. She likes to tell anecdotes and stories about her family (all 40 of them!), her passions (dulce de leche and red lipstick), and especially being Cuban. She is happily married to her fabulous gringo husband, Eric, and lives with him and their four children in a tiny house with a white picket fence. You can read more from Marta on her blog, My Big Fat Cuban Family.

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