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Studies show teens reading less, but parents can help

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POSTED: June 5, 2014 7:00 p.m.
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Many experts have proved the benefits of reading for pleasure โ€” from relaxation to job success. Yet new studies show teens are reading less and less. Here are some ideas for how parents can help, and a list of books teens love.

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Even with more platforms to read on than ever before, recent studies show that teens are not reading for pleasure like they have in the past. According to a gathering of studies by the nonprofit Common Sense Media, “nearly half of 17-year-olds say they read for pleasure no more than one or two times a year — if that.”
Jim Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media, asked if there is a connection between the decline in reading and the rise of digital media. He said that teens are “less and less reading, and more and more attracted to some of the digital media platforms.”
Larry Rosen, a psychologist who has been studying the effect of technology on people for more than 25 years, recently looked at how social networking sites affect children.
“Teens who use more technology (such as video games or the Internet) miss more school and tend to have more stomach aches, sleeping problems, anxiety and depression,” he said.
Social media also appears to affect attention span length. Rosen observed students of all ages and found that most “were only able to focus for two to three minutes before turning their attention to something unrelated to their studies (most often a text message or mobile phone application.)”
The benefits of reading for pleasure have been solidly upheld by multiple studies over the years. The obvious benefits such as relaxation, learning, focus, sympathy for others, and sharpening of the mind are not contestable. But the benefits go far beyond that, according to a study out of The University of Oxford.
This study claims “reading books is the only out-of-school activity for 16-year-olds that is linked to getting a managerial or professional job later in life. None of the other activities, such as ... sports, socializing, going to museums, the cinema or concerts, or practical activities like cooking or sewing, were found to have a significant effect on careers.”
Researcher Mark Taylor, from the Oxford Department of Sociology, analyzed 17,200 questionnaire responses from people born in 1970, which gave details of extracurricular activities at the age of 16 and their careers at 33. “The findings show that girls who read had a 39 percent probability of a professional or managerial post at 33, but only a 25 percent chance if they had not.”
The numbers for boys were even more impressive. “The figure went up from 48 percent to 58 percent.”
How parents can help
Parents have the power to help teens be readers and lessen the distraction of technology. Here are some ways to do just that.
Schedule time each day for reading. Limit time spent on technology, such as phones, tablets and video games. Make books available to your teen. Real books offer less distraction than a tablet or e-reader. However, if your teen prefers the technology, simple e-readers without other apps, the Internet, games, etc. are best for reading. Help your teen find the books or reading material he or she loves. Everyone is a reader once they find what they love to read. Think outside the book. If your teen is reluctant to read novels, try graphic novels/comics, magazines on a subject he or she loves, newspapers, and nonfiction material. Also, don't limit your teen to young adult literature. Many teens would rather read what is written for adults, such as the latest best-selling thriller or literary fiction. Be an example! The researchers all agree: A parent who reads is the most important factor in raising a lifelong reader. Reading suggestions for teens (15 and older)
Fiction
“Girls Don’t Fly” by Kristen Chandler (contemporary, nature) “Dispirited” by Luisa M. Perkins (ghosts, supernatural, romance) “After Hello” by Lisa Mangum (contemporary, romance) “Holes (Holes #1)” by Louis Sachar (contemporary, adventure) “The Maze Runner” (Maze Runner #1) by James Dashner (dystopian, adventure) “I am Not A Serial Killer” (John Cleaver #1) by Dan Wells (horror, mystery) Nonfiction
“Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom” by Sue Macy “Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith” by Deborah Heiligman “Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science” by Marc Marrin “How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous” by Georgia Bragg “Bomb: The Race to Build — and Steal — the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon” by Steve Sheinkin “The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery” by Steven Sheinkin What other books do you recommend for teens?
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