20 Ways to Keep Your Middle Schooler Interested in Reading

These teacher-approved techniques will find your child adopting books into their daily routine.

Mar 23, 2023



20 Ways to Keep Your Middle Schooler Interested in Reading

Mar 23, 2023

Sports, screens, sleepovers: The life of a middle schooler is busy and frenetic.

During this charged transition between the preteen and teenage years, it might seem like getting your kids to do their homework is enough. But the truth is, a reading routine remains as essential now to your child’s schedule — and growth — as it was in elementary school. At this age, your child is reading for knowledge, further exploring their interests and discovering their subject strengths.

We spoke with Sarah Doss Worosylo and Carrie Aylor, two 7th grade language arts teachers from Colorado, about the techniques they employ to help students retain their focus on reading — including how to squeeze in pages between school and home.

Doss Worosylo reminds parents that letting children choose their books is imperative for keeping them interested in reading. Among her students, Doss Worosylo sees representation and escape as the top characteristics kids want from their books.

“Middle school students want to see characters that look, sound, feel, and act like they do,” she says. “Escape is another important need.”

The chance to escape and enter another realm through books, if only temporarily, offers a way for middle schoolers to balance the tensions of adolescence. It’s a moment of personal calm that can be found only in books.

“It doesn't always have to be a fantasy novel full of magic and larger-than-life characters,” Doss Worosylo says, “but a story that gives students a chance to dissolve into a new world, to keep wondering, ‘What will happen next?’ or to give them a place to disappear from daily life.”

Below, Doss Worosylo and Aylor share 20 tips to keep your middle schooler interested in reading.

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1. Let your child choose their reading material. You may see them gravitate toward nonfiction, science fiction and fantasy, or humor. Whatever it is, be sure to provide ready access! 

2. Subscribe to magazines that will interest them. Ask your child to choose one or two titles and put the subscription in their name to make it extra-special when an issue arrives. You can also visit a local library and explore their magazine collection. 

3. Read the news together. Establish a routine for reviewing current events around the world. Ask your child how they feel about the headlines and encourage them to form opinions.

4. Keep up with what they’re reading. If you can, read a few pages of their books yourself so you can discuss them together. If your child is a strong or advanced independent reader, this also allows you to judge material for age-appropriateness. 

5. Talk about what they’re reading. Asking your child what they like about their books compels them to make connections and think critically. Summarizing and sequencing events will challenge their reading comprehension (which is a significant component of standardized testing).

6. If they’re struggling or bored with a book, let them put it down. Reading is meant to be fun, and the more kids enjoy their books, the more likely they are to keep reading. Achieving reading frequency takes practice, and that means trying different titles until that just-right book is found.

7. Ensure they have a good reading space. Let them choose the nook, and make sure it's well-lit and inviting. If you find your child is enjoying their reading space past bedtime, be flexible. Avoid asking your child to stop reading.

8. Play games that utilize reading. If you have a family game night, try incorporating word- and vocabulary-based games, like Scrabble or Boggle. Completing crosswords in the morning is another opportunity for learning new words and practicing spelling.

9. Encourage your middle schooler to read to a younger sibling. Letting your older child take over the nightly reading ritual once a week will ensure they read something. They may find their younger sibling's enthusiasm for stories contagious.

10. Visit the bookstore or library together. Make discovering new books a regular event where you get to share quality one-on-one time.

11. Encourage journaling. Journaling is a skill-building activity that allows your child to record observations, ambitions, problems, and solutions. Writing about their books further allows them to explore their interests, not to mention refine their book-reviewing techniques for class and build their social-emotional skills.

12. Explore books based on popular media. Your child may not know that the on-screen adventures of their favorite superhero continue in books. For example, check out The Bad Guys series and watch the movie! Literary extensions of multimedia franchises offer an entry point for reluctant readers drawn to movies and TV series.

13. Provide access to audiobooks. Books on tape are an easy way to connect your child with the rhythms and pace of a story — and they’re surprisingly successful among this age group. Whether you’re heading on vacation or just back-and-forth to school, try listening to a book that appeals to everyone. Equip your child’s mobile device with an audiobook platform as well, so they can listen on their own time.

14. Model reading. From birth, your child is modeling their behaviors after you. Your pre-teen will follow your reading habits (though they’ll never let you know it!). Let them see you reading, strike up a dialogue about what you’re reading, and share interesting passages with them.

15. Allow and encourage kids to re-read their favorite books. Parents may be discouraged to see their child reading the same book over and over. In reality, they are reading for pleasure and likely picking up on new words and contexts with each read.

16. Leave reading material in the car. Pack a bag with books, magazines — whatever your child likes to read — for quick grab-and-read opportunities. Parents have told Scholastic in interviews that their child’s favorite time to read is in the car on the way to sports practice. 

17. Start a book club. Choose a title the whole family can read together, or help your child organize a regular meetup with friends to discuss a selection in person, virtually, or via text message.

18. Take reading outside. Enjoying books literally outside of the everyday routine shows kids books are there to be enjoyed and can provide an escape. They can listen to audiobooks while hiking, or find a peaceful park to read in.

19. Try out multiple formats of a book. Many popular book series, like Wings of Fire, have been adapted as chapter books and graphic novels, and others have corresponding audiobooks and e-books. A book’s format can have a major effect on the overall reading experience: The illustrations and simple text of graphic novels, for example, are especially popular with reluctant readers who can comprehend context more quickly. Trying different formats also lets young readers experiment with different reading styles (e.g., digital vs. print), to determine what they’re most comfortable with.

20. Meet an author. To bring life to the reading experience, help your child seek out local events with their favorite writers. If you can’t meet an author in person, check out their official website, listen to interviews they’ve done, or watch book trailers for their books. Meeting an author and hearing what inspires them can inspire readers to seek out related titles.

Looking for more tips? See all expert advice about establishing reading routines at home.

Discover books your middle schooler will love below! You can find all books and activities at The Scholastic Store

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