How to Encourage a Teen to Read Classic Literature

Two Methods:Getting StartedShakespeare Terms Guide

Encouraging a teen to read the classics can be a challenging prospect. As they enter their teens, even many children who read voraciously in grade school begin to read less and less. This is partly due to increased time commitments elsewhere and increased social pressures, but is also a result of the challenging nature of classic works of literature themselves. If you are hoping to encourage a teen to read classic literature, consult the tips below.

Getting Started

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    Introduce your teen to classic literature through film and television adaptations. Classic novels have the distinction of being constantly adapted for film and TV series. Encouraging a teen to watch a film based on a classic novel might help to introduce them to relevant and recognizable themes in the work, which may make the task of reading it less daunting. In addition, it can be exciting to have both read a book and watched its film version; few teenagers can resist smugly asserting that the book was better when their peers discuss the film version.
    • Some prominent examples of films based on classic literature include William Wyler's adaptation of Wuthering Heights, John Huston's version of Moby-Dick, and Robert Mulligan's version of To Kill a Mockingbird.
    • Keep in mind that there are many films which represent loose borrowings from a classic novel rather than a direct adaptation. For example, Coppola's Apocalypse Now is based loosely on Conrad's Heart of Darkness. The 2001 comedy Bridget Jones's Diary is a loose adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. If a teen already enjoys films such as these, you may be able to encourage them to read the novels that inspired them.
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    Lead your teen towards novels with themes relevant to their life. For example, teens reading Dickens' Hard Times may have difficulty applying material about 19th century poverty to their lives. However, they might find the themes of social pressure and anxiety in Salinger's Catcher in the Rye much more applicable. By leading teens towards novelists who dealt with issues they are likely to be facing - social pressures, bodily anxiety, "fitting in" - you may be able to spark their interest in the broader body of classic literature.
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    Get involved with your local libraries. Public libraries and school libraries often rely on very tight budgets. When libraries are faced with this minuscule funding, they often focus on reference books at the expense of classic novels. Make an effort to help fund your local libraries (including your teen's school library), and make frequent trips to the library with your teen.
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    Encourage your teen to buy classic novels for themselves. One thing that libraries and school textbooks often can't offer are shiny, attractive, eye-catching editions of classic works. Publishers are increasingly paying more attention to book design as they compete with digital book formats. Take your teen to bookstores in your area; they may be inclined to approach classic novels with the help of eye-catching book jackets and cover designs.
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    Make sure that your teen has an encouraging reading environment. Encouraging reading can have a lot to do with your home environment. Television and radios that are constantly on can dull attention spans and discourage attentive reading. Make sure your teen has a lamp that makes reading in bed comfortable. Provide them with a bookshelf for their room and encourage them to collect books. Even if teens aren't reading the classics, a conducive home environment will help them to build the literary foundation for approaching those works later.

Shakespeare Terms Guide

Sample Shakespeare Terms


  • Teach by example - if your teen never sees you curled up with a book, they will be less likely to pursue reading themselves.

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Categories: Studying Literature