How do you get teenagers to read?

I hope some of my reading friends here have ideas about this, but let me be more specific about the problem, as I think it’s a new one, twenty years ago it wouldn’t have existed.

The question is, how do you get hostile belligerent teenagers who are addicted to phones/social media and over whom you have no authority, though you are their teacher, to read for pleasure? And, by the way, this is a ‘nice’ school in Geneva, Switzerland; heaven knows how bad it must be in other places.

To complicate things further, these teenagers are learning English as a second language. Their grasp of it is very weak, A2 at best.

The best I’ve come up with so far is one teacher’s suggestion of The Hunger Games because what is relevant to teenagers is sex, death, violence and drugs. Relationships with each other and how to get through those. Are there more uptodate examples readers might suggest that will get kids reading?

And if these kids don’t even read in their own language, what are the chances of their reading anything in a foreign language they are being forced to learn?

The teacher referred to above posted here about his experiences.

Approaching adult themes
Perhaps the two most popular fictional series for young adults in recent years have been The Hunger Games trilogy and The Twilight Saga. They have been translated successfully into all the major languages so it’s clear that they have a universal appeal. They may appear to be very different from each other on the surface: the one being set in a futuristic dystopia while the other, although set in the contemporary world is a tale of rival gangs of vampires and werewolves. But they share a number of important themes in common. They are both works of fantasy. They both deal with relationships in the form of a love triangle. Violence and death and all of the emotional and moral conundrums therein are also central plot themes. These themes crop up again and again in young adult fiction. The prevalence of fantasy is easy to understand – successful books need to entertain after all. Vampires, werewolves and wizards may come and go according to fashion. But the human realities of surviving relationships, being different, coping with hardship, violence and even death are here to stay.

Looking at the top ten teen books being sold online at the moment, six fall into the science fiction/fantasy genre, two are set in futuristic dystopias. Four have romance as plot elements, while two deal with the issue of rape. It should come as no surprise that these themes have so much appeal to teenagers who are themselves coming to grips with issues surrounding relationships, sex, violence, and being different themselves, as they near adulthood. Books offer them a safe place to explore these ideas as they try and work out their own beliefs and how they fit in with the world around them.

I wonder if there are any A2 vampire stories out there? Perhaps that’s the way forward in this dispiriting conundrum.

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