How to Support a Slow Reader in Their Teen years

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My kids are entering their teen years and the amount of required reading for school has definitely increased compared to their younger years. The amount of reading began picking up the pace during middle school and it continues to increase each year.

For some of my kids, this is a welcome change. They love getting lost in a good book and keeping up with the reading is fairly easy for them.

But not all of my children read quickly. This means that increasing reading requirements are a challenge for them. It is hard for them to keep up with everything when reading the material takes twice as long for them compared with many of their peers.

Thankfully I have discovered plenty of ways to support a slow reader in their teen years.

{This post contains affliate links. Read my full disclosure.}

Not Everyone Reads Quickly

Everyone reads and processes text at their own pace. There are people who read and process text quickly while others take longer to read and process the words on the page.

Both groups of people can read. Both can comprehend. Both are capable of discussing what they read.

But, let’s be honest, the group that reads and processes text more quickly has a distinct advantage in school because almost every subject requires a decent amount of reading. And the sheer volume of required reading can be discouraging for a slow reader.

As parents of a slow reader, we need to encourage and support them because life can throw a lot of negative messages their way when reading takes time.

How to Support a Slow Reader

Once a parent has determined through testing that their child does not have dyslexia or other reading disabilities, then there are plenty of ways to support and encourage your teen if they just naturally read slowly.

Encourage Them

It’s important for teens to know that every person reads at their own pace and that’s okay! Many slow reading adults have shared with me that they felt (or feel) dumb because they can’t read as fast as other friends. Some have distinct memories of seeing friends rewarded in elementary school during book reading challenges and feeling so discouraged.

I have no doubt that kids who read slowly struggle with this same feeling of discouragement at times.

So we have to tackle this head-on with our kids. We have to have a conversation about different reading speeds and make sure our kids know that they are brilliant regardless of their reading speed! In fact, there are arguments to be made for the benefits of slow reading and perhaps it would benefit many of us to SLOW down.

Encourge your slow reading and work with them to put supports and alternatives in place to limit their frustration.

Limit their Required Reading

Take a look at the academic requirements and eliminate unnecessary reading assignments. And yes, this is hard for me as a fast reader because it ALL seems worth of reading so I have to really think deeply about this.

If you are a homeschooler, then you have complete control over this option. If your children are in outside classes or in a school classroom, then you can try to work with the teacher and make adjustments as you can.

For example, in our homeschool, everyone is required to read for 30 minutes a day in addition to their regular school work. I keep a fun list of books for each child and they work through the list. I waive this requirement during the school year for my slow reader because it is enough for her to do the required reading for her school work.

Another great way to limit the required reading, especially for homeschooling parents, is to replace books with documentaries, YouTube, TedEd videos, Masterclasses, movies, interviews, field trips, and other experiences that will accomplish the same academic goals.

Obviously, you can’t do this with every class, but it’s a great option when you can make a reasonable replacement. We are doing this for our US History class this year. So far I have been able to replace about half of the required texts with a documentary or movie and it has worked out perfectly.

Read Aloud to Your Teen

Not only is this enjoyable, but it is a great option if your teen reads slowly or just wants a break from reading. It works well whether your teen is homeschooled or in a school building because a parent can always opt to do the reading for them.

And I KNOW they need “to learn how to do this on their own” but they certainly don’t have to practice every single day and in every class and with every assigned book.

Pick a few of the assigned titles during the year and read them with your teen. Read after dinner, at bedtime, or whatever time works for your family.

The bonus is that YOU get a refresher on the topic and a chance to offer insight as you talk about the reading with your teen.

The perfect time to fit in some reading with your teen, if you are a homeschooling family, is Morning Time. I use Morning Time with my teens to accomplish all sorts of academic goals and classes.

Chunk Their Reading

Help your teen plan ahead and set reasonable expectations for reading during the week. Look at the reading assignments for the week and help them make a plan to read a little bit each day.

Set a timer and read some in the morning, some in the afternoon, and more in the evening. Read for a reasonable amount of time and then take a break.

And use the weekend to catch up on reading when necessary. I tell my kids that everyone reads at their own pace so they might have to use the weekend time that friends or siblings don’t really need to use. And that is okay!

Audio Books

Yes. They count as reading and the experts have made that clear.

Audiobooks are a worthy substitution when they are available for a school assignment. This isn’t going to be the best option for textbook reading, but many fiction and non-fiction books have an audio version.

There are plenty of great options for audio books:

  • Libby – a free app that allows you to access eBooks and audiobooks using your library card.
  • Librivox – a site with free public domain audio books – volunteers read them so it can be hit or miss.
  • Hoopla – another site with free books that work in conjunction with your library card if your library offers the service.
    Amazon Audible – purchase individual books or grab a free one each month with your membership.

Invite your teen to listen to the audio book as they relax in the evenings, when you are driving, or when they exercise. If they need to annotate or make notes, then they should follow along in a print copy.

Read Graphic Novels

Graphic Novels are real books. They are a unique form of literature and art, but they are REAL books. Make sure your child knows this and then incorporate graphic novels into their education.

For a lot of slow readers, the graphic novel providesa fun, more relaxed way to read a story because it is already in smaller chunks.

There are fiction and non-fiction graphic novels available for all ages. If you are a homeschool parent, then incorporate graphic novels into your child’s curriculum in all subject areas. In fact, I created a graphic novel literature year for my daughter in 8th grade. She spent the entire year analyzing literature through graphic novels and boy did I develop an appreciation for the literary form!

If your child is in school, then make sure there are plenty of graphic novels available from the library for fun reading at home. If the classroom teacher gives rewards or stars for reading books, then be sure that the teacher is counting graphic novels as books (because they are)!

Looking for graphic novel inspiration?
Graphic Novels for Elementary School
Graphic Novels for Middle School

Don’t be afraid that graphic novels are “too easy.” I am convinced that your child can learn literary analysis skills by reading graphic novels. Graphic novels can also be a springboard for meaningful discussions about theme, tone, setting, and plot.

I’m not saying you should ONLY have your child read graphic novels, though it was a novel thing to do one year. I am encouraging you to make sure graphic novels are part of their reading diet because it might help them fall in love with reading, something that can be a challenge for a slow reader.

Read at the Same Time

Break out a book and read alongside your teen. It doesn’t have to be the same book. Simply sit in the same room and read at the same time.

Of course, if your teen prefers to read alone then don’t force this one. But sometimes it feels better when someone else is reading too, especially on the weekend when everyone is “done” and off doing their own thing.

Remember that reading might not be your slow reader’s favorite pasttime. And while that might be hard to accept as a homeschool parent and a potential fast reader, it is OKAY! Helping them find stratgies to navigate the world of text might just keep them there into adulthood when school stops requiring it.

In the end, try different options and work with your teen to find the best support for them as their academic workload increases.

Family Read Aloud with Teens

More Ideas for Parenting Teens:

Over 30 Fun Activities for Teens and Their Parents

Over 50 Engaging Teen Books Made into Movies

Homeschool Teens: One Mom’s Transition

What to Include in Your Morning Time with Teens

The Very Best Board Games You and Your Teen Will Love

Math Games Your Teens and Tweens Will Actually Enjoy

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