Our Top 5 tips for reading with young people and teenagers

Emma and Colette joining Roger Phillips for a studio selfie at BBC Radio Merseyside!
Emma and Colette joining Roger Phillips for a studio selfie at BBC Radio Merseyside!

This afternoon to celebrate Volunteers Week, Emma Melling and Colette Greggs took to the airwaves with BBC Radio Merseyside’s Roger Phillips to spread the word about Off The Page, our biggest volunteer recruitment initiative to date.

We’re looking for volunteers who want to make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged children (aged from 11 to 16 years old) across Liverpool through one-to-one shared reading experiences. Not only will the project directly engage the children themselves with a love of reading for pleasure, but will also extend to the adults in their lives – be they parents, carers, family support workers, community staff and volunteers.

Think you might be up for this rewarding challenge? Emma and Colette tell us their top 5 tips for reading with this age group:

  1. Be passionate: make the story come alive! This can only happen if you care about what you’re reading. What books, poems or stories do you wish you could help a young person discover for the first time?
  2. Be patient: volunteers need to commit to reading an hour a week with a young person, for six months minimum. It may take weeks for a young person to overcome an initial resistance to reading. Enjoy the journey you take together – both of you may learn a lot from each other.
  1. Be flexible: something going down less well than you’d hoped? Don’t take it to heart. It may be that your young person isn’t ready to take on your suggested reads, or maybe they’re just not interested in that kind of thing. Be prepared to have options at the ready and don’t be afraid to change course if necessary – it’s all progress!
  1. Be bold: don’t be afraid to introduce new, sometimes darker material, particularly with older teenagers who may show greater engagement if they encounter literature that resonates with young adult issues and preoccupations. Always be sensitive to individual needs however!
  2. Be a role model: set an example, and not just when it comes to reading. You’re in a privileged position at a formative stage in a young person’s life. Afterwards, they should be remembering you as a positive influence – maybe you’ve even made a difference to the course of their future.

For more details of how to volunteer, please contact Celia Jordan, our Off The Page Project Manager, on celiajordan@thereader.org.uk or 07812 238 395 – or come along to our Summer Fair on Saturday 6th June at Calderstones Mansion House.

3 thoughts on “Our Top 5 tips for reading with young people and teenagers”

  1. The Reader is inspirartional for all of us who have found that reading has helped us make significant decisions in our lives. Decisions that have helped us to change or move away from negative influences, a marked alteration from what was expected of us. I look back at how easily I have let literature into my life, but I was lucky, my mum pushed books at me when I was bored and unhappy. There was little else to do except read or get into mischief. Somehow I found enough misschief with Enid Blyton and The Secret Seven or Oscar Wilde and The Happy Prince. I always liked a story with a message, a moral, and a sense of truth. Something that would make me feel good about the world and the people in it. To be honest not everything around me when I was child gave me hope for a better future so I needed those messages perhaps more than most but then I think now that whoever you are and whatever your circumstances, a message of hope, a universal reasoning that encapsulates you is as required when you’re born in to ‘sweet delight’ as much as someone born into misery or ‘endless night’ as Blake puts it. – Woe and Joy can go hand in hand and it is right that they do so but something happens when you become aware of feelings,sharing the experience has a manifold effect, long lasting and binding. I would like to encourage more Shared Reading Practice particularly with teenagers – Smethwick has yet to catch up with Liverpool but we are letting our young down if we don’t push for this practice in The West Midlands.

    1. Thanks for the lovely comments! We couldn’t agree more about reading and literature being important from an early age, as well as having a mixture of literature to take life lessons from. It’s great you had such a wealth to choose from. Best of luck in your endeavours with Shared Reading!

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