Team up your tween with a book

It can be a struggle to get Tweens off their screens and into a book. Diana Noonan has 10 tips to help.

They’re a door into new and familiar worlds, they let us know we’re not alone, and they answer questions we’re too afraid to ask others. They build up vocab, entertain for hours, and provide a contact point with peers. Yet despite all the pluses that come with books, it can be darned hard to get your tweenager or teenager to pick one up, let alone read it. But don’t give up – here are 10 tips to help save the day!

Click and connect

There’s nothing tweens and teens enjoy more than hanging out – unless it’s hanging out online! Now, thanks to a host of young-adult book lovers’ sites, they can do just that in a dozen different ways.

Buddy reads

Doing anything alone when you’re a tween or teen can be seriously off-putting, never mind reading a book in isolation! Online Buddy Read sites allow young adults to request a buddy to read a book alongside them. Together, the new acquaintances set their own rules such as which book they will read “together”, and how many chapters/ pages they will read by a chosen deadline. Then, they regularly dive onto the site’s chat room to discuss with their buddy how they are enjoying the book so far, any points they’re unclear about, what else is written by the same author etc. Check out this exciting concept at one of many sites including

Book bloggers

It’s not news that adults are the people tweens and teens are least likely to seek out for their opinions! That’s what makes teenage book bloggers so much more appealing than a teacher, yourself, or even a librarian. Teenage book bloggers, who regularly post online about their latest novel or non-fiction find, are super-current in their reading. Even more exciting, publishers often approach the best of them with advance copies – and young adults love nothing better than taking a peek at a new cover before it hits the book shelves, or receiving a teaser. Young adult book bloggers are plentiful but to get started, take a peek at this site which lists some of the best:

Short and sweet – Instagram blurb

Let’s face it, sometimes less is best, so if you have a tween who’s unlikely to be tempted by a lengthy blog or full-on blurb, suggest they hit Instagram for something short and punchy (and with a great cover pic to boot.) In just 50 words and a bling of colour, your child will be hooked! Check it out for yourself at

Fanfic – like, so much fun!

Haven’t heard of “fanfic” (or fan fiction, to give it its full title)? Allow us to introduce you, so you can set your teenager up with some serious fun. Tweens and teens love to rock the boat, and what better way to do just that than by re-writing the ending to their favourite book, or better still, rewriting the ending to a book with a final chapter that didn’t live up to their expectations! Then again, why not encourage them to carry on a story from where the novel they’ve just read left off? What makes this almost subversive activity even better is that it is done (and published) online so others can read it. Think it might get your teen reading? Then hop online

Comments, comps, and curiosities

Wherever you are in NZ, check out your local library’s website and dive onto the YA page for reviews, competitions, and upcoming info about visiting YA authors. Check for suggestions about where to find interactive material for YA readers.

Mix it up

In your tweenager’s world, everything and everyone is connected. Take advantage of it by drawing their attention to the connection between books, movies, graphic novels, and music. If they like the movie, get them reading the book to check out how it compares. If they’re waiting for the movie to arrive, hit them with the book to whet their appetite. If there’s a rap on the same theme, go for it!

Devour on a device

If your tweens and teens prefer devices, let them know it’s okay to read on an e-reader or to download a book to their device. There are squillions of downloadable YA book sites. Read their background carefully before suggesting two or three. Be aware that many feature “indie” (self-published) titles – in which case, do a quick quality check first.

Comics are okay

Graphic novels are comics for big kids, but don’t be put off. These sophisticated publications have all the drama, pathos, and emotion of a novel, but with illustrations as well. While many a young adult will refuse to read a novel, the same story told through a “comic” will have them hooked. Graphic novels even cover some of our literary greats, so if your YA is struggling to digest Shakespeare’sMacbeth, let them have it in graphic novel form!

Early birds

Lukewarm readers can go off the boil if they can’t get their hands on a book while it’s hot. In-demand titles are usually reserved for weeks in advance at your local library, but you can help your tween or teen obtain the goods by setting them up with a book bank account. Set aside the cost of just two novels and let them use the dosh to buy a book hot off the press. Encourage them to manage their own book fund by showing them how they can on-sell a book they’ve finished on Trade Me or at a secondhand book store. The sooner they finish their newly released title and make it available for resale, the higher the price it will command.

Bonus tip: access the adult section

Some tweens are actually well over YA reads and can grow bored with what’s on offer. Don’t be afraid to offer them adult titles – just be sure to check out the content yourself or via a librarian to make sure it’s suitable for a younger reader.

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