I was lucky to have the opportunity to establish a love of reading from a young age. My parents read to my brother and I before bedtime every night. They treated us with trips to the local library on Saturday mornings. I then went on to make regular trips to my school libraries. I suppose my love of reading could be considered equivalent to the current version of a Netflix series binge. Just one more chapter.

Unfortunately, developing a relationship with books is not considered to be as valuable as it once was. In this busy digital age, we are continually facing the challenge of time constraints. Teenagers are becoming more and more reluctant to take the time to sit down and enjoy a book.

SO, WHY SHOULD TEENAGERS READ BOOKS?

I’m sure you’ve heard most of these reasons before (you were also once at school) but here’s a reminder. Reading books…

  • can be a source of entertainment and pleasure
  • improves writing
  • helps with concepts such as ’cause and effect’
  • assists the ordering of ideas logically and sensibly
  • widens vocabulary
  • improves general knowledge
  • increases spelling confidence
  • assists in learning about the world
  • develops our understanding of personal and societal values

TOP 5 BOOKS

This list covers essential topics such as racism, friendship, second chances, gender stereotypes and social media. Now, that sounds relevant for any teen!

To Kill a Mockingbird

If you are looking for a bildungsroman that explores the themes of racism, family, friendships, and coming-of-age, then Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is for you.

The book is set during the 1930s, a period of racial prejudice and tension in the USA. Scout’s father Atticus is a well-respected lawyer in the small fictional town of Maycomb. A black gentleman, Tom, is accused of rape by a young white woman and Atticus is selected to cross-examine the case.

Goodnight Mr Tom

Are you interested in a book that looks at second chances at friendship, the challenging of gender stereotypes and how one can find a new sense of self-worth and love? If so, why not give Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian a try?

This war-time novel focuses on the event of young children being sent out of bigger cities to host families in the country. Young Willie Beech, hailing from an abusive and unloving home, is hosted by Mr Tom, a social recluse since the death of his beloved wife and son. Willie soon forms a friendship with Mr Tom and the other children in the village. However, a letter arrives from Willie’s mother, summoning him home…

Go Well, Stay Well

If you would like to read an authentic account of sustaining a friendship with someone of another race, then Go Well, Stay Well by Toeckey Jones is the right choice. The book provides an exciting insight into the strict regulations of the apartheid government, deals with relatable teenage themes such as family, defiance, adversity, township living and also the choices and dynamics involved in teenage romantic relationships. The book, set in a by-gone era, provides insight into the source of many societal prejudices, complications and inequalities that we still face as South Africans today.

Set in Johannesburg, Candy, a white girl, and Becky, a black girl, meet unexpectedly in town one day and strike up a friendship, in which Becky agrees to give Candy Zulu lessons. As the political climate is not on their side, the girls have to meet for the lessons with various complications involved. We also are given a window into Candy’s romantic relationship and family dynamics, and her family’s response to her friendship with Becky.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to experience life from another perspective? If so, you might enjoy The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. The book gives a fascinating insight into the everyday experiences and complications of someone with autism. It also reveals how much one can learn about themselves and the world if they are brave enough to open themselves up to new challenges.

The book begins with a 15-year-old autistic mathematical genius, Christopher Boone, discovering the body of his neighbour’s dog with a pitchfork sticking out of it. Disturbed by this sight, as it goes against his highly structured world, he decides to take matters into his own hands. Boone begins to conduct an investigation as to who the perpetrator may be. His investigation causes him to physically venture out of his comfort zone.

Wonder

Are you looking for a modern novel that includes the use of social media? A novel that deals with complications that teens face in familial and friendship relationships? Wonder by R. J. Palacio is just that.

Set in the USA, the story follows the experiences of August Pullman, who was born with a rare genetic facial deformity. August begins his fifth-grade year at a local prep school after being home-schooled. The book includes perspectives from other characters and charts their and August’s experiences of the school environment, friendship dynamics and consequences for actions.

In considering the books recommended above, I hope that as parents, there are a few novels that you feel excited to suggest as reading for your teens. A love of reading links to a whole new world of adventures. One of my favourite quotes by Mason Pooley says, “reading takes you places when you have to stay where you are.”

5 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for the recommendations Annie – I will try and get my teens to read a few of these. Take care. Delme Linscott

  2. Hey Annie. As an ex-English HOD I appreciate your choices! ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is probably my all-time favourite. I think these books offer a lot. When encouraging Christian parents to get their teens to read, what about faith-building books? Maybe at least one might warrant making it onto your list 🙂 I can recommend Jan Vermeer’s books, published by OpenDoors, which awakens Western children to the true stories in countries such as North Korea, dealing with displacement, life under a regime, and the faith that perseveres through struggles. Real faith building books!

  3. Thanks for your support and interest, Grant! I also enjoyed teaching To Kill a Mockingbird when I was teaching high school English. What first comes to mind when you were asking about Christian books was the Chronicles of Narnia series, but I am not sure if teenagers would enjoy them? What are your thoughts?

  4. I forgot to say, Grant, that I taught in South Korea for a year in 2012. Whilst there I had the opportunity to hear the story of someone who had escaped from North Korea and was living in South Korea. It was very harrowing and eye-opening! I am sure the Vermeer books are similar?

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