TeenTober: Cultivating a Fondness for Reading

Editor’s note: TeenTober™ is a new, nationwide celebration hosted by libraries every October and aims to celebrate teens, promote year-round teen services and the innovative ways teen services helps teens learn new skills, and fuel their passions in and outside the library. Today we look at inspiring your teen who is blind or low vision to read!

Reading is a treasure. It is truly much more than entertainment or a diversion—reading feeds the mind. Through imaginative, fictitious tales, ancient myths, autobiographies, historical accounts, poetry, fairytales, legends, and self-help, one encounters ideas—in time and through wide reading, one begins making connections between ideas. Yes, through reading, one can develop relationships with knowledge, gleaning and forming thoughts from current authors and those who lived long ago, from others’ experiences, from story patterns and protagonists, and images and metaphors.

Say one reads a fairytale involving a witch offering a poisonous, yet attractive, apple. Years later, one reads of the Trojan horse, constructed by the Greeks to appear as a peace offering, but it was not so. One then listens to The Winter King, a riveting piece of fiction involving an impoverished teenager, Cora, who daily toils in the councilman’s kitchen—Cora is covertly given food gifts from the councilman’s son. One begins to make connections. Ah, not all gifts are well-intentioned.

A formal lesson or a textbook isn’t necessary here, nor a parental lecture. The individual has made connections through stories.

TeenTober was developed to encourage teens with blind or low vision to read…to participate in a lifelong education—to wrestle with ideas and make connections.

But maybe your teen doesn’t enjoy picking up a book. Consider with me how you can promote reading with your teen.

Choose the Right Medium

For your child to read for pleasure, reading must be accessible. If your child is primarily a print reader, but print is downright frustrating or straining to the eyes, it may be time to learn braille (even if only for jotting notes or labeling items) and use audio books. Reading through listening is as effective as traditional reading. For those who are blind or low vision, reading through audio or braille is often much more efficient and effective than traditional sight reading.

The following resources provide accessible books through braille, audio, or electronic print:

No matter the medium of choice, your child will be reaping the benefits of books.

Discover the Right Books and Reading Material

You really don’t know what reading material will inspire your child, cultivate their imagination, or provide ideas with which they will form relations. Spread a wide feast.

You may not think to read historical fiction, but it may fascinate your teen. How about ancient myths, how-tos, biographies, detective novels, fantasies, science fiction, plays, comedies, or epic poems? Consider magazines, informational texts, reviews, comics, and personal narratives. Think current interests, yes, but then think wider. You never know what will become an interest due to an impactful book. Ensure a variety of accessible books is available.

Read Aloud

Whether it’s a book club book or an adventure book for your family, read it aloud.

Your teen isn’t too old to enjoy a family reading session. You can take turns choosing an evening read-aloud, play an audiobook on a car ride, or read aloud when each family member is engaged in a quiet activity. Reading aloud has many benefits, one of which is fostering a love of reading.

Pick Up a Book

Foster your love of reading. Model it.

Sit down with a book or play an audiobook when working on a project or housework. Talk about what you enjoy from the story—just enough talk to inspire, not lecture.

Get excited when you find a book sale. Devote a part of your home to books you may want to re-read.

Pick up the book.

Parents cannot control whether a teen enjoys reading, but a parent is certainly influential. You can help your child access books, you can help them find books they want to devour, you can introduce your child to other teens who read, you can read aloud to the family, and you can model a love of reading.

This TeenTober, let’s set the scene for our teens to cultivate a fondness for stories, opening the door to lifelong enjoyment and learning.

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