May 4, 2021
Dear parents and guardians of Weston High School students,
I am your student’s high school librarian and I invite you to learn about teens and reading. This letter explains some reasons why teens do and don’t read, the benefits, and how we can help.
High school students don’t read as much as they did in elementary and middle school. When your student was a toddler perhaps you read them picture books, sometimes the same one over and over again! Maybe you had a small home library or visited the public library for storytime and to borrow books. In elementary school your student may have visited the school library. Your student was excited to read and make their own choices. Reading books was a big deal!
In high school it changes. In “Reading Crisis?” students report not having enough time to read books independently. They read to get information for assignments, and it is hard to find time for required tasks with extracurricular activities, family obligations and jobs competing for attention. Interestingly, research shows that students who read are more involved in sports and civic activities than non-readers. Social media has assumed a huge role in the lives of teens, with 45% of teens reporting they are online almost constantly (Anderson).
What teens like to read
Despite these barriers to free reading, many high school students do. Some students report that the slowed down Covid schedule allowed them the time and space to read independently again and they loved it.
Did you know that high school students:
Care about social justice and read about it.
Love to read fantasy. Our biggest readers are fantasy fans. They read a lot and they read often. Respect the fantasy reader!
Read nonfiction about topics that are important to them.
Love historical fiction.
Need to read books where they can see themselves (ethnically, culturally and racially). More new books are available by Black, Latinx and Indigenous people than ever before. Books by Chinese, Chinese-American, Korean, Korean-American, and other Asian authors are available in larger numbers than ever before. These books are in the library.
Enjoy audiobooks. Audiobooks count as real reading!
Enjoy graphic novels. Did you know that graphic novels activate more parts of the brain than text-based books because readers must decode words and pictures, then construct a relationship between them to read one? Respect the graphic novel!
Value reading recommendations from their parents and friends.
What’s so great about reading books?
Google “reading changed my life” and you’ll find thousands of articles about the rewards of reading. Independent reading has benefits for teens, including “enhancing academic performance, social engagement and personal development” (Ulrich). Researchers have found that independent reading increases vocabulary (McQuillan, Ulrich). Some readers are social (Beres), some are solitary.
There is no right or wrong way to read and no wrong books to read. Free reading means free to read the same book again and again, read about fairies and trolls and people whose lives may be the same or different from ours. We read to see ourselves and others. We read to escape, engage and learn. Sometimes we don’t know why we are attracted to one book over another.
Developing the reading habit
If your student wants to develop the reading habit, the most common advice is to schedule reading time into your week and stick with a book until it is finished. This can be hard! For many of us, Covid made it hard to concentrate. I struggled to read books from March 20-January 21. Listening to audiobooks helped me keep up. For a lifelong reader, it was a destabilizing experience. In addition, our online lives have habituated us to browse from video to online article, from one social media post to the next. Reading is quiet and focused. It takes time to develop the habit.
Here are some suggestions on starting the reading habit from a teen (click on the image to view):
If your child doesn’t develop the independent reading habit in school, don’t worry. It is common that young adults “discover” reading in their 20s and 30s and enjoy a life full of the rich rewards of reading.
Here is some reading motivation from a man in his 20s (click on the image to view):
Finding great books to read
Finding a good book can be a challenge for some people while others have stacks of books waiting to be read. Luckily there are many resources available for finding books online and in person. The high school library is an easy place to start. Browsing the shelves is a low pressure way to explore. Sometimes students are afraid to ask questions in the library because they feel like they should know where everything is. Encourage your student to ask questions in the library.
The high school library supports your student’s independent reading in several ways, including:
Developing a collection of books that are well reviewed, current and matched to student interests and needs
Providing 24/7 access to e and audiobooks through SORA
Creating suggested summer reading lists
Individual discussions with students to help them find books they like
Purchasing books requested by students
Activities like book clubs, reading challenges, displays, etc.
The school library isn’t the only place for your student to get reading encouragement. Students often ask English and other respected teachers for book recommendations. Some teachers lend students books from classroom libraries. Public libraries like Weston and Boston have active teen programs with librarians who specialize in working with teens. Your student has many options for book recommendations and places to get free books.
Please browse these links to see reading resources from your school, town, state and...Tik Tok.
I look forward to speaking with you and thank you for taking the time to learn more about teens, reading, and how you can help them take advantage of the resources available to them.
MS, Library and Information Science, School Library Teacher Program, Certificate, Digital Literacy
Anderson, Monica, and Jinjing Jiang. "Teens, Social Media and Technology 2018." Pew Research Center Internet and Technology, 31 May 2018, www.pewresearch.org/internet/2018/05/31/teens-social-media-technology-2018/. Accessed 4 May 2021.
Beres, Derek. "People aren't reading less. In fact, literature has never been so interactive." Big Think, 10 Feb. 2020, bigthink.com/culture-religion/social-reading?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1. Accessed 4 May 2021.
McQuillan, Jeff. "Where Do We Get Our Academic Vocabulary? Comparing the Efficiency of Direct Instruction and Free Voluntary Reading." The Reading Matrix: An International Online Journal, vol. 19, no. 1, Apr. 2019, pp. 129+.
Mussu-Gillette, Lauren. "Reading for fun: Using NAEP data to explore student attitudes." NCES Blog, Institute of Educational Sciences, 3 Nov. 2014, nces.ed.gov/blogs/nces/post/reading-for-fun-using-naep-data-to-explore-student-attitudes. Accessed 4 May 2021.
Office of Research and Analysis. To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence. Report no. 47, Washington, D.C., National Endowment for the Arts, Nov. 2007.
"Reading Crisis? Do Today's Youth Read Less than Past Generations?" CQ Researcher, vol. 18, no. 8, 2008, pp. 169-92.
Ulrich, Theresa A., and Darryl M. Tyndorf, Jr. "Free Voluntary Reading: A Neglected Strategy for Language Acquisition." Applied Language Learning, vol. 28, no. 2, 2018, pp. 25-28.
School libraries today
The role of the school library has changed since you have been in high school. With the advent of technology, we help students navigate digital environments, read digital text, and solve hardware and software problems. School libraries today combine technology and reading to provide robust programs to our students. Your school librarian is certified by the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to be a librarian in grades K-12 and has a master's degree in Library and Information Science.
Reader’s Advisory, or “What should I read next?”
If your student doesn’t know what to read next, encourage them to ask librarian Mrs. Hanson for suggestions. She reads about 50 books every year so she can recommend something compelling to your student. She buys new books to suit a wide range of interests and reading levels.
WHS Summer reading lists
Audiobooks, or “I understand better when I listen”
If your student understands better when they listen, we offer audiobook versions of required English texts as well as Axis 360, a wonderful audiobook library with thousands of great choices for free reading.
Access to audio textbooks is done through the Special Education department. Students with reading disabilities may be eligible for services like Bookshare and Learning Ally that provide audio textbooks.
Research Central, or “I can’t find anything on my topic”
We subscribe to databases providing thousands of authoritative ebooks, articles, videos, podcasts, and images for your student to use in their projects. You can find these databases on our website.
Mrs. Hanson helps your student find the right resources during the school day, but often they will locate and search these resources at home (sometimes even late at night right before the project is due). Hint: to get database passwords, scroll over the "i' in the black circle.
Citing, or “Isn’t the URL the citation?”
We encourage our students to use our district subscription to Noodletools to create and save citations. Find a link to Noodletools on the library home page. Use the G-Suite sign in option to create a new account.
Relaxation, or "I am so stressed"
We offer puzzles, games and crafts to help your student relax.
Noise Level, or "I need some peace and quiet"
Because five classrooms open onto the library, we are not a silent space. In addition, many students like to study collaboratively. Silence was hard to find until WEEFC funded a new silent study space this year. Thank you. WEEFC.
Librarian: Alida Hanson, MLIS