7 ways to support Australian teens in reading for pleasure

Following the release of a new research report into Australian teen readers from Deakin University, Australia Reads offers seven research-backed recommendations for engaging teens in reading for pleasure.


1. Support teens to find their next great read – whatever it is!

Many teens struggle to discover suitable and exciting reading material, with 44% of non-readers (or ‘Book Abstainers’ as the Deakin University report identifies) reporting they find it hard to find anything good to read.

When seeking to support teen reading, allow teens to choose their own reading material. While book gifting and assigned reading have a place in encouraging reading in teens, they can provoke a spirit of resistance if teens feel like they are being told to read something that does not take their tastes and preferences into account.

Remember, all reading is good reading! Whether it’s graphic novels, romance, non-fiction or fantasy, adopting a non-judgemental approach to teen’s reading tastes will help foster a positive, independent attitude towards reading for pleasure. 


2. Invest in school libraries and librarians

School libraries have a positive influence on reading behaviours – providing access, community, and recommendations for teen readers. Libraries need to be funded in schools across Australia, with dedicated and knowledgeable librarian staff, and suitable and appealing options for teenage readers.

School librarians are an amazing resource for book recommendations, however are currently under-utilised by teens, with 60% citing they do not go to librarians for recommendations. 

The Deakin University report also shows a drop off in library engagement as students get older. Keeping teens engaged with the library space through their schooling may help maintain a positive and regular relationship with reading.


3. Get parents reading

For parents wanting to support teen reading, reading yourself – and having books in the home – is a good place to start!

Teens who see reading modelled in their home are more likely to read and report reading more regularly than teens who don’t see the adults in their lives reading. Teens identified by the report as regular readers had a higher percentage of parents (both mothers and fathers) who were regular or weekly readers. Teens who read less think that their parents also read less.

International research also shows that children who were exposed to more storybooks showed a greater inclination to read for pleasure and in turn, had more advanced literacy skills as adolescents[1], and that having books in the home in adolescence has a positive direct effect on literacy, numeracy, and information and communications technology skills later in life[2].


4. Meet teens where they are

Reading and screen time shouldn’t be seen as in opposition to each other. Reading the book of a movie, TV show or game they liked is the third most popular way teens find books to read, with 55% of teen readers using this discovery strategy.

The popularity of BookTok and Bookstagram also shows the incredible power of social media to support reading behaviour, through aiding with book discovery and forming online communities.


5. Make reading social

The report shows that regular readers often have peers who are also engaged in reading. 57% of teens cited recommendations from friends as the main way they discover their next best read.

Making space for teens to talk with both peers and parents about books, and sharing recommendations, is a positive way to grow reading engagement and create a culture of reading. 


6. Carve out time and space for teens to read

Teens lead busy lives – with school, social and extracurricular activities all taking up time in young people’s packed schedules. Finding the time and space to read for pleasure can be difficult for teens. 

Schools can support teen reading by making time for independent reading in the classroom.  Parents can also integrate a reading culture into the home, by making time in the family schedule for everyone to read.


7. Embrace the holiday down time

The Deakin University report shows that 45% of teens who read for pleasure report reading more in the school holidays. Driving more activity and promotion around this time – whether through library programs, publisher promotions, or in the home environment – may help engage more teens in reading.


Want to find out more? Read the full Deakin University report here, and sign up to our enewsletter for the latest news and updates about reading for pleasure in Australia.


[1] Tremblay, B. & Rodrigues, ML. & Martin-Chang, S. ‘From Storybooks to Novels: A Retrospective Approach Linking Print Exposure in Childhood to Adolescence’. Frontiers in Psychology, 2020
[2] Sikora, J. & Evans, M.D.R. & Kelley,J. ‘Scholarly culture: How books in adolescence enhance adult literacy, numeracy and technology skills in 31 societies’, Social Science Research, 2019 (77)