Teenage readers often struggle, but a few useful tricks will get them hooked in no time says one novelist and children’s critic
By Amanda Craig
To those who despair of their teenagers tackling any kind of challenge, the news that many 13-year-olds are shunning difficult books in favour of those suitable for 10‑year-olds will have come as no surprise. Research published by Dundee University showing that rising numbers of pupils, including the brightest, choose books like Roald Dahl’s The Twits, suitable for seven-year-olds, may confirm many of our fears about dumbing down. Worst of all, having reached a decent level at the end of primary school, the failure to promote reading causes many to regress.
The blame for this can be laid at several doors. Secondary school education can be so harrowing that wanting to return to the least demanding fiction is understandable – up to a point. More worrying is that at 13-plus many children gain access to the equivalent of crack cocaine in the form of computer gaming, whose visual sophistication and conceptual cleverness are no substitute for building a child’s own imagination, vocabulary and moral intelligence with a book.
However, time-pressed, cash-strapped parents need to be more involved, too. It’s not enough to have books in your house – you need to read yourself, widely and with enjoyment, to pass on the bug.
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