How Much Should a Teen Read?

A teen should read as much as a teen can read, and the teen should find the reading enjoyable. Reading should be a major part of a teen's experience. From texting friends to delving into fiction and textbooks, teens need to read. Do they read as much as parents and teachers would like for them to read? Do they read the materials mentors wish they would read? That depends on the teen.

Traditional Reading

The inability to decode with ease or to translate written words into ideas presents a major barrier to reading enjoyment. According to an article in the Sacramento Bee that cites the group Literacy in America, 99 percent of Americans are literate. The remaining 1 percent encounter incredible barriers to functioning in the modern world because they are barred from the constant input of print information available to everyone else. A report from the National Literacy Trust on Reading for Pleasure, noted that children ages 10 and older tend to read fewer books and to read less often 1. By age 14, many students read an average of 1.9 books per month, and 36 percent of them might have not read a book in the previous month.

Nontraditional Reading

Computer games often get a bad rap from educators, parents and critics, but many of them are excellent motivators for getting young adults to read. The best and most interesting games have complex story lines that often require the player to read the story to get the directions for game play. Texting has also gotten some bad press, but in order for young adults to use this emerging medium, they must be able to read. Social media pages, comic books, catalogs and instruction manuals for tools or mechanical things all require reading.

Functional Illiteracy

According to a Washington County Literacy Council publication, 23 percent of Americans are functionally illiterate. This means that while 99 percent might be able to decode basic information, such as traffic signs and how to find the correct bathroom, 23 percent are not able to read complex assembly directions, be able to understand their bank statement or correctly interpret medical permission papers. They have difficulty reading textbooks for information, and they are likely to miss the nuances in a complex work of fiction. Reasons for this range from intellectual or physical disability to lack of support from family and friends.

Why Reading is Important

According to the Washington County Literacy Council, a branch of the National Literacy Council, the cost of illiteracy each year is about $240 billion. This includes business losses, income tax losses, support paid to indigent families, poverty and crime. Medical News Today, in an article titled "Teenage Child Bearing Risks Links to Pre-Teen Literacy Levels," states that girls with poor literacy levels are 2 1/2 times as likely to become teenage moms as their more literate counterparts.

Really, How Much Should a Teen Read?

Reading fiction improves the ability to have empathy for others because most readers will identify with the book characters. Reading nonfiction improves a teen's ability to find information and follow directions. Teens should have the opportunity to read at least one enjoyable book on their reading level per month, in addition to their school work, social media and computer games. Nagging, setting goals or even praising won't turn your teen into a reader. Setting a reading example and providing enjoyable materials for your teen's pleasure will not only create a reader, but promote lifelong learning 1.