Tackling Tough Reading Assignments

Tuning In

Should you pay for good grades? In general, you want your teen to learn that good work is its own reward. That said, you might find other ways to reward improvement (not just achievement). Promise nothing in advance, but if your teen makes significant gains in a certain area (say, pulls his Biology grade from a C- to a B), consider staging some type of celebration that your teen would enjoy. He might like to be taken out to dinner or you might spring for coveted tickets to a hockey game, and the two of continues you can go to celebrate his improvement. If he showed noticeable improvement in a subject that was difficult for him, that's something worth setting off some fireworks about! Families who do pay for grades sometimes stipulate that the money earned goes into a college fund. This type of enforced savings certainly doesn't do any harm.

Beowulf and The Canterbury Tales have not gotten easier to read with time (or were you one of those students who enjoyed studying them in school?). If your teen comes home with a daunting summer reading list or a tough assignment, here are a few things that might help:

  • Help your student map out a plan of attack. How long is the book? When must it be finished? Plot out how many pages must be covered per night. (Be flexible. Some kids do better with longer, less frequent reading sessions because they like to “get into” the book, rather than reading small pieces nightly.)
  • Check the library for audio recordings of a difficult book (she can listen and read along in her text). Movies or video versions of a book or play will also heighten understanding of the material. A good example is Shakespeare. Reading it and seeing it (even on video) are two totally different experiences, and the teen who sees it enacted has a far better chance of appreciating and remembering both the story and the characters than the teen who doesn't.
  • Some books really are exceptionally difficult; no 15-year-old should be expected to trudge through them alone. Look for study guides. Teachers don't want them used in place of the real text, but they most certainly don't mind a good guide being used to help explain what's going on.
  • If you're really motivated to help (and your teen doesn't mind), read the book at the same time your teen is. That way you can discuss it with her as she goes along.

If your child frequently has trouble with reading assignments, talk to the teacher. You both may want to look deeper into the cause of the problem, or discuss new teaching strategies that will help.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Parenting a Teenager © 1996 by Kate Kelly. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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