Three ways to build authentic reading communities with tweens and teens

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When we talk about sharing in a reading community, what images come to mind? Chances are you picture small children either gathered on a colorful classroom rug or cuddled up with a picture book and a grown-up before bedtime. But what happens when those little ones get bigger? Decades of research have shown us that tweens and teens still benefit from establishing connections and relationships within a reading community. Although I’d argue that even though they may be tall and gangly, you could still probably gather them around a rug for a read aloud, here are some ways to share in a reading community that are a just-right-size for your tween and teenagers.

Read aloud to your tween or teen. You might read together a book or series of books by taking it one chapter or scene at a time. Or you may read aloud to share an article that you found particularly interesting. This is not meant to take the place of their independent reading. But, as you model the skills and thinking involved in reading, your tweens and teens will be better prepared to transfer those thinking and skills over to their own reading experiences. Not to mention, you’ll develop rich relationships around what you read together. In her recent blog titled “Choice, Voice, and Connectedness: How the Global Read Aloud Can Change Your Teaching (and the World),” Jenelle Williams introduces an idea for joining a worldwide community that connects yearly through shared read aloud texts.

Listen to audiobooks together. The benefits of read aloud extends into audiobooks, too, so cozy up around a device or plug it in during a car ride. Listening together will give you a shared experience and will model strong fluency that can carry over as readers develop their internal reading voices. You can find plenty of resources for purchasing audiobooks, but did you know that your local library has a wide selection, too? With the free Libby app and a local library card, you can borrow audiobooks directly to your own personal device at no cost to you!

Visit the library together. While the most common age for children to attend the library is from birth to age twelve, there are plenty of resources there for tweens and teens, and young adults still make up a major user base. From book clubs to gaming to crafting, chances are good your local library has programming that will speak to your adolescent reader. Or, just plan for a periodic visit together to browse the plentiful and diverse selection of books for children and young adults. If you’re looking for recommendations, many area libraries even have dedicated staff who specialize in children’s and young adult literature. And while you’re there, browse the shelves to choose a book for yourself. Even if you’re not reading the same book at the same time, modeling your own reading habits is a strong way to build an authentic reading community with your children – no matter the age.

Megan Kortlandt is a literacy consultant with Oakland Schools.

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