A Reader for Life: Your Teen Reader

YPRL Staff

31 July, 2022

Three confident steps forward, one stumbling, ankle-spraining step back … Being the parent of a teenager can be head spinning and heart wrenching – not since toddlerhood has your child undergone so much developmental change in so short a time.

Despite the bad rap adolescence so often gets, there are joys, even thrills, as you watch your child edge closer and closer to the independent person he or she is becoming – especially when it comes to reading. In fact, what’s ahead now may come as a pleasant surprise. Since you went through those same tumultuous teenage years, a new energised culture of books meant specifically for teenagers has developed.

“Young Adult Literature” is a category that didn’t even exist a few decades ago, but these days it is loud and proud. Teenage books now take up a share of space in bookstores and libraries. Their authors are rock stars: authors like Gayle Foreman, Angie Thomas, John Green and Jenny Han. Books by these authors have become hit movies (See: If I Stay, The Hate U Give, The Fault in the Stars and Netflix hit To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before).

And here’s an open secret in the book world: Many teenage readers are actually over 21.

These books are not just throwaway teenage pleasures; many of them are well-written, sensitive, nuanced pieces of literature for readers of all ages. They’re just created especially with adolescents in mind.

Literature can provide role models and heroes and antiheros. Books can impart truths about how the world operates, both in real terms and through ideals.

- How to Raise a Reader

Many lifelong readers remember adolescence as a time of intense immersion in books, a period in which you read to help figure out who you were, what you believed in, and where you stood in the world. Literature can provide role models and heroes and antiheros. Books can impart truths about how the world operates, both in real terms and through ideals. A made-up story or the biography of someone important can offer a path to take or one to avoid. In short, the teenage years are a great time to learn to channel frustration, sorrow, confusion, and loneliness through literature – and to find solace and company and hope for the future in books.

But where, exactly, do parents come into all this? If you’re wise, you’re not barrelling in through the front door of your teenager’s reading life. Parenting adolescents, after all, is about strategically stepping back so they can find their own way. But you still play a role – an important one. Sometimes it involves helping your teenager find books they will like. Sometimes it involves figuring out why your teenager has stopped reading or never seemed to read as much as you’d have liked. Whatever the case in your family, your job now is to get to know as well as you can the passions and preferences of your own ever-evolving, independence-seeking teenager, and the landscape of books that are out there to help them, tempt them, console them, and inspire them.

Extract from: Paul, Pamela & Russo, Maria (2019). How to Raise a Reader. (New York: Workman Publishing) pp. 119-120


Here are some Great Australian Books for Teenagers (and above!):

The Boat by Nam Le (Also available as an eBook on Borrow Box app)   

The Tall Man by Chloe Hooper 

Crow Country by Kate Constable 

Ready When You Are by Gary Lonesborough 



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