Tips for Parents: Literacy, You, and Your Teen


The time may be long gone where you cuddled together and read a great book. And while parents may have less influence and you want your teen to become self-directed by the time they move on from high school, you still worry, particularly since passing the Grade 10 Literacy Test is a requirement for graduation. There are still many things that you can do together to promote literacy skills, but the younger you start the better!

The most important part to remember is KEEP IT FUN! The fun you have together doing activities that promote literacy skills will have a more long lasting effect than wrestling about doing homework.

Here are some literature-based ideas to get you started:

  • Read your favourites (your teen may prefer magazine articles, songs and rap)
  • Have your teen read to you – or take turns reading aloud (don’t forget the voices!)
  • Read the same book, article, or short story separately, and then compare opinions – what did you like and why?
  • Read the book and see the movie – together or separately – then discuss
  • Explore each other’s taste in genre(s) – compare/debate the value of each
  • Who was your favourite book or author at your teen’s age – explore together
  • Go to the library and pick a book for each other
  • Explore teen fiction – there’s such a wide variety available – librarians have a wealth of information
  • Compare contemporary teen fiction or graphic novels with classics
  • Short stories are great because they let you mix it up – try compilations, current writers, classic authors such as Poe

It’s the discussion that is really important

It enables you to communicate with each other about neutral topics, and helps you to feel comfortable with each other as you share your opinions and understand each other. Some general questions or discussion starters…

  • What would happen if….?
  • What actresses and actors could play the main characters?
  • Which is better, book or movie?
  • Who would you be in the story?
  • What happens next (after the story)?
  • Can you believe they did……?

Literacy skills develop from activities that have nothing to do with books. Here are some general ideas that may work for you and your teen, or may give you other ideas to try.

  • Do something new for both of you – have you been to the Museum or Art Gallery? Have either of you tried scuba diving?
  • Together plan a trip – for you, someone else, even a story character
  • Do chores together – often washing the dishes together can lead to interesting discussions
  • Challenge each other to find unusual topics to discuss
  • Use google news to find new topics to share thoughts about
  • Plan a meal/cook together
  • Share your talents with each other – you both are experts at different things – get social media lessons, give lessons on cooking, wood working, whatever works for you
  • Play cards, board games, etc. together
  • Do something together (just the two of you) once a week
  • Create a Google alert to news articles about a favourite topic, celebrity or athlete
  • Go to your favourite website(s), and read and discuss the latest that you find there - Got an environment buff? Climate change is in the news almost every day – ask your teen about it

What you can do

  • Be a role model – When you value reading and make it a regular part of your life, teens learn that value. Conversely, consider the message you send if you don’t take time to read for pleasure. Read a variety, it doesn’t have to be novels - magazines, newspapers, online information, non-fiction books - all demonstrate that reading is part of life. Give a gift subscription or a book store gift card.
  • Share what you read – Reinforce that you enjoy reading by talking about what you’ve read. Share an article you found interesting, read aloud a letter, a poem, a pun, a story, a news report. Talk together about different topics. Sports, science, world events, crazy happenings, they all can be conversation starters that can engage your teen. Teens love to share their opinions!
  • Have lots to read! – make sure your home includes a variety of reading materials to enjoy, including materials about favourite topics or interests. If you have a budding politician at home, get an iPad subscription to Macleans. Young scientists love Asimov, Smithsonian, or Nature.

The Bottom Line

  • Have fun
  • Literacy is for pleasure – enjoy what you read
  • Make literacy-based activities part of everyday life
  • Be a role model
  • Share
  • Spend time together
Target Age
Engagement , Skill Development
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