Reasons Older Kids Don’t Read (as much as they used to)

Reasons Older Kids Don’t Read (as much as they used to)
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Remember those days of hauling out massive stacks of books from the library? When the potential overdue fines for that stack of books was a real financial threat? I remember those days. That was our life not too long ago, but things are different now. Let’s talk a bit about some reasons older kids don’t read as often as they used to, and what you can do about it.

My kids used to be voracious readers. I had the kid that I refused to buy the Diary of A Wimpy Kid box set  for because I knew he’d plow through all the books in a couple days.

(Grandma caved and bought it for him. And yes, I was right.)

We used to go to the library once a week, and sometimes those kids were chomping at the bit to go back because they’d already plowed through everything they got the week before.

But as my kids got older, suddenly our library trips just weren’t the same. We weren’t carrying out shoulder busting bags full of books and counting the minutes until we could get home and dive into them.

Homeschooling can become more difficult in some ways as your kids get older. I hear many moms in the homeschooling community complain that their children, who used to always be found with a book in hand, just don’t enjoy reading anymore.

And while this can be an issue for girls, I hear the complaint a lot more from moms about their sons.

I’ve thought about it—and I’ve talked with my two teen sons—and we’ve come up with a few reasons older kids don’t read.

Reasons Older Kids Don’t Read As Much As they Used To #1: Interests change

Kids and their interests become more specific. My oldest son said, “I feel like you get to a certain age and if you’re not into vampires, wizards, or science fiction, your selection of books feels pretty slim. You have to look a lot harder to find something that you want to sit down and read.”

Reasons Older Kids Don’t Read As Much As they used to #2: subject matter

To be honest, fear of inappropriate subject matter isn’t much of an issue at our house, but it is a complaint I hear from a lot of moms. (Which is fine. Everyone’s household is different and that’s completely okay.)

It can sometimes be hard to find books that satisfy your children’s fiction interests that are appropriate subject-wise for whatever level they’re at. Sometimes their reading level (or the piles of books they’ve already blazed through) bumps them into subject matter either they or you’re not comfortable with.

Reasons Older Kids Don’t Read as much as they used to #3: Not as much time

As kids get older, they’re able to do more things. Whereas reading when you’re younger is a pretty solid form of entertainment, as your kids get older there are other things to do. If my kids have the choice to refurbish a guitar or work on their dirt bike or build a computer, they’ll choose to do that 9 times out of 10.

There is also the simple fact that books are longer, and not every kid is willing (or able) to devote several hours to a book that kinda sorta piques their interest…when they could spend that time watching a YouTube video about how to tear apart a carburetor.

It’s the same reason I don’t get as much reading done as an adult as I did when I was kid. There are more things to do in my 24 hour daily time slot now than when I was 10.

So, there are lots of reasons older kids don’t read…but how can we solve the problem? What can we do when our older kids stop reading?

As a parent, don’t freak out. 

When our kids are younger, we tend to take a lot of pride in the fact our kids can read and that they read a lot. If it slows down as they get older we a) think there is something wrong and b) think other parents/teachers are judging us for it.

Dig deeper.

The world of literature is wide. The right book for you is out there, you may just have to dig a little deeper to find it.

Check out book lists/ask friends/search Pinterest.

Understand that depending on who creates the list, the books may or may not be something your kid would be interested in. That’s okay! It doesn’t mean it’s a bad list. It just means you need to keep looking. Realize that the list may also suggest books that are below or above subject manners that you’re willing to have in front of your kid.

When browsing online, don’t ignore suggested or similar titles. Amazon is great at this (especially on Kindle.) Goodreads is also a useful tool for discovering books similar to what your kids have enjoyed.

Even though my kids are reading less than they used to, here is their list of the top five books they have enjoyed since reaching tweendom and teendom:

**Please read the description for these books on Amazon as some of them may have subject manner you’re not comfortable with your kids reading.**

The Candymakers

The Mysterious Benedict Society series

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (and the rest of the series)

The Warriors series

Percy Jackson series

Don’t forget non-fiction.

I would also say—at least as far as my boys were concerned—the older they got, the more they gravitated towards non-fiction. They reached a time in their life where they wanted to read to gain knowledge to do something, not necessarily to be entertained. A book written by a British war strategist might appeal to them more than a fictional account of a kid growing up in WWII.

Head to a bookstore.

I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I totally do. I like to pull books off a shelf and hold them in my hands. Sometimes just hanging out and seeing what’s out there is a great way to find a new title.

(And yes, you can obviously do this at the library. But bookstores—at least the ones I hang out in—have coffee.)

Actually, in all seriousness, the ambiance of certain libraries and bookstores in your area may be all that needs to be tweaked to get your kids browsing for different things.

Write the book.

One of the common reasons older kids don’t read is that they can’t find the book they want to read. If your kid can’t find the book, can you challenge them to write the book? If there is something specific they’re wishing was on the shelf, and they can’t find it, it might nudge them to work towards getting it there.

Consider audio books.

This is especially awesome if your kids are busy doing something else (like refurbishing that guitar), they can still get a decent story in if they’re short for time. Audio books are the ultimate in multi-tasking.

Consider read-alouds—yes, even if your kids are older.

Some of the books in the list my kids enjoyed were actually books we read as a family. Do not stop reading to your kids just because they can read independently.

If our family can find a book to agree on, I’ll brew some good coffee, get out the fancy cream, and bring out cookies and pastries. (Try bringing it out on trays like these!) We hang out in the living room while I read and we all eat and sip our fancy coffee. Make it an event if you have to.

Question: Are your older kids reading less? Have they told you why? What books have your older kids enjoyed reading? Leave a comment and let us know!

Are your older kids not reading like they used to? Let's talk about some reasons older kids don't read as much, and what you can do about it.

Tired of the sugarcoated version of homeschooling? Read my book The Homeschool Highway: How to Navigate Your Way Without Getting Carsick.

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1 thought on “Reasons Older Kids Don’t Read (as much as they used to)”

  • One reason I see among my friends’ kids is that they suddenly get all “schoolish” with their older kids and begin requiring that particular books be read. A kid might love To Kill a Mockingbird if he chooses it – but when it’s an “assignment,” it absolutely kills the joy. Or if that doesn’t do it, making them analyze it surely does. I’m not anti-classics – I was an English major in college – but I am convinced we need to do away “required reading lists.” Instead, we should be willing to do the work to nudge our kids toward good books but letting them retain the choice of what to read (within the parameters of a family’s convictions about what is appropriate content, of course). And, for heaven’s sake, lets stop with all the picking books apart to answer “comprehension questions!” When was the last time we had to do that as adults – so why do we disrespect our kids so much by making them? A kid can get much more out of a book if 1. she chooses when to read what (from a wide swath of choices the mom has deemed appropriate – wide being the operative word) and 2. let them enjoy it without being tested and writing “literary analyses.” Maybe it’d be good – for some – to write ONE literary analysis in high school….but I think even then it’d be less painful to do that after watching a great movie (such as suggested in the curriculum called Movies as Lit from Design-a-Study). But, honest to pete, only college English majors are ever going to have to do that in adult life so why do we make kids hate good books by making them pick them apart?

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