teen screaming at open books

6 Tips to Transform Teens with ADHD into Pleasure Readers

Hi, I’m Edie Brown. I’d like to share what makes me happy. Today’s blog? It’s about helping a teen with ADHD become a pleasure reader.

All you need is faith and a posse of librarians. I have them both.

Teens with ADHD need reading skills beyond those developed for children. Their high school and college priorities are decoding, comprehension, and analysis. What about reading for the joy of it? This story is about creating a teen with ADHD who loves to read for enjoyment. Here are six tips on how to use librarians as allies in the struggle.

I worked for Montgomery County Public Schools for many years. Luckily I started as a Math teacher. By the time I rolled around to English and reading, teaching was a no-brainer.  

I just laughed when my kids said that they hated reading more than anything.  They changed their minds when I offered to break down and do some Non-Euclidean Geometry proofs!

Eventually, I became an academic therapist, working with a high school student named Lisa. She was doing a biography research project. Luckily she got to choose the person, and she certainly did. She chose someone who I had never heard of, Kalpana Chawla. She was the first Indian woman in space and died in the Columbia Space Shuttle accident.  

I searched YouTube and discovered some videos on her life, but most were in Hindi. I didn’t give up. I had faith that things would work out. Prayer helps a lot.

Lisa’s school was unsuccessful in finding Chawla’s biography and suggested reading about the Columbia accident instead. I told her I was angry and that I’d find something myself!  (sounding like my students). I knew right away that I would never succeed alone. I needed help.

I spent the day at the library with one of my favorite librarians who looked high and low for just the right book. I explained Lisa’s dilemma. After an endless search, she discovered Chawla’s biography written in English. The library didn’t have a copy, but at least I had a title and ISBN. 

I gave the information to Lisa’s mother, who purchased it online. A package came from India and was there when I arrived…

Kalpana Chawla:  The First Indian Woman in Space.  It was a 40-page biographical comic. 21st Century librarians rock! The book was packed with information but was an easy read. Lisa read the entire biography in less than 2 hours.  

We both learned of Kalpana’s family’s emigration from Pakistan to India and her struggle to pursue a STEM career as a female. She moved to the US, earning her Ph.D. in Aeronautical Engineering. She joined NASA, eventually becoming the first woman from India in space. She died and is famous for doing what she loved.  Her country mourns her death, but at the same time celebrates her life.

Sometimes the student becomes the teacher.

Use Libraries to Build the Love of Reading

Teens with ADHD are likelier to have a specific reading comprehension disability than adolescents without ADHD. Schools aren’t designed for reading as entertainment. It’s often seen as a means to an end. Whether it’s reading textbooks or the classics, it’s done for a grade, nothing more. Talk about boring!

Reading for fun is something different. The challenge is helping teens with ADHD learn what to read and how to explore for the pleasure of it. They’re used to instant access to information, communication, and entertainment. Luckily, the library holds a different environment and perspective.

Entice teenagers with ADHD to the library for special services and programs. Librarians know what adolescents are reading and the habits they display. Exploit the large variety of reading materials for different interests and reading levels. Embrace the support.

Strategies at Home

  • Make it a date. Designate a day on your calendar to go to the library.
  • Go for variety and check out the maximum number of books. Focus on both fiction and non-fiction materials. Don’t forget CDs and DVDs. 
  • Discuss materials to help with comprehension. Talk about irregular words seen online, in comic books, and in magazines.
  • Set fun reading-goal awards. Make a family night watching videos of books that you’ve read. Cook favorite recipes together with your teen as the head chef.
  • Make books your own. Use book drives and sales as an affordable opportunity to buy pleasure-reading materials.
  • Go beyond books. Check out the event calendar to explore free programs appealing to tweens and teens. 

ADHD Strategies

Teens and young adults with ADHD are more likely to struggle with reading than their non-ADHD peers. Research cites that this makes them less likely to become pleasure readers. Use comorbidity of strengths and difficulties to use as an informal assessment platform. 

Libraries are a perfect place to seek support in your effort to build reading for joy. Consider critical literacy needs. It is easier to remember information than it is to reflect, evaluate, or analyze. Here are some tips to make things easier.

  • Consider reading level. Go for independent reading materials or easier. Encourage rereading.
  • Integrate technology. Choose audiobooks and digital books with screen readers.
  • Engage the imagination. Use pictures to help visualize and improve comprehension.
  • Recognize story structure. Use setting (time, place), high and low points.
  • Use Post-it notes. Encourage note-taking (names, key events).
  • Talk. Talk. Talk. Ask for predictions. What do you think happens next?
  • Share in person and on social media. Give reviews explaining your opinion. Discuss with friends.

Remember…it’s for fun and pleasureful activity, not a chore.

Copyright © 2023 by Edna Brown. All Rights Reserved.







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