Stephen King said, “Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

Reading a book is like going on an adventure. It is an opportunity to travel through time, to see things through someone else’s eyes and to exist in another universe. Books provide us with knowledge and experiences without us having to go anywhere. The trick is persuading many of our teenagers that reading is something we should all do every day.

There are many articles and research papers about why we should all read. These are just some of the many benefits:

list of the benefits of reading:

  1. It exercises your brain.
  2. It improves your focus.
  3. It improves your ability to empathise.
  4. It reduces stress.


Discussion: Ask scholars to discuss the following quotes and then make their own list of the benefits of reading:

  1. “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” Neil Gaiman
  2. “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” Albert Einstein

The act of using books as therapy is called ‘bibliotherapy’.

Finding the right books to read

It is not surprising that research shows that teenagers are reading fewer books than before. One of the reasons that many teenagers do not read is because they have not been able to find the right book or genre for themselves. One article suggests that we need to keep offering teenagers who do not read, new reading opportunities and options. So for example, a “graphic novel one day, a cool app the next, a novel on a third day, or a poem, a play, an investigative article, a description of a new discovery. The idea is to keep opening doors, so occasional readers recognise that there is something of interest–something appealing, stimulating or unexpected–waiting for them when they do take time to read.”1

“There is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book.”-  Frank Serafini


Literary awards for inspiration:


It is worth investigating local and international literary awards as possible options for books for your scholars to read.

The South African Literary Awards give the Youth Literature Award each year. These are some of the past winners:

2019 – ‘Mine’ by Sally Partridge
2020 – ‘Born a crime’ (edition for young readers) by Trevor Noah
2021 – ‘The boy and the poacher’s moon’ by Pamela Newham

 “We never learn the name of the boy in the title, or much about him. But we do know that he is almost as afraid of the rhino poachers he works for as he is of the SANParks rangers.

Four other children, all from different backgrounds of class and race, are attending a practical course at a game farm abutting the Kruger National Park. One of them will win a bursary to study conservation at university. Billy, the son of a widowed mother on the Cape Flats, knows this is the only way he’ll escape that gang-ridden area. His anxiety about winning is forgotten in the terror of being caught up with poachers in the middle of the night.

The story is both moving and thrilling, skillfully taking us on twists and turns. What is a clue and what is a red herring? And the ending is a complete surprise.”2


In the UK the Carnegie Medal is awarded by librarians for an outstanding book written in English for children and young people. The shortlist that comes out each year is great for exploring new Young Adult (YA) literature and the novels are diverse and engaging. The 2021 award went to the novel ‘October, October’ by Katya Balen.


“October and her Dad live in the woods. They sleep in the house Dad built for them and eat the food they grow in the vegetable patches. They know the trees and the rocks and the lake and stars like best friends. They read the books they buy in town again and again until the pages are soft and yellow – until next year’s town visit. They live in the woods and they are wild.

And that’s the way it is.

Until the year October turns eleven. That’s the year October rescues a baby owl. It’s the year Dad falls out of the biggest tree in their woods. The year the woman who calls herself October’s mother comes back. The year everything changes.”3

‘Reading is a social act…’ 

-Stephen Abram (an experienced library and information industry leader)

This is particularly true for teenagers, many of whom spend a great deal of time chatting with friends on social media. Making reading a social activity may encourage some scholars to read more. The following activities could be introduced:

  • Engaging with relevant blogs where scholars are able to leave their comments and chat to other readers.
  • Interacting with authors through their social media sites.
  • Using sites, such as Goodreads, which allow you to catalogue the books you have read, write and read reviews and be part of a community which discusses and rates books. 
  • Class discussions where scholars are able to suggest books to each other—peer validation of reading choices should not be underestimated.

Audiobooks as an option

Audiobooks can also be used to motivate reluctant readers, as good stories, whether read or heard, will always have the power to captivate. Audiobooks allow scholars to be immersed in the meaning of the text and they remove the lag time of decoding. Anxiety plays a huge part in a struggling reader’s entire school experience, so the introduction and regular use of audiobooks can actually help scholars enjoy school (and reading) more.4

Some suggested websites

Goodreads: Allows individuals to search for books and reviews, to write their own reviews and to connect with other readers. Readers can also track their reading history and goals.

YA Books Central: An online community for reviewers and lovers of YA books.
YA Books Central

Epic Reads: A website devoted to the latest YA hits; it includes book lists and recommendations.
Epic Reads

No Flying No Tights: This site is devoted to graphic novel reviews specifically for those who read them—mainly teens—and for those involved in distributing them to teens, namely teachers, librarians and parents.
No Flying No Tights


Write a review for on a book that you have recently read.

Include the following points in your review:

  1. What did you enjoy about this book? Did it have a compelling storyline? Did it play on your emotions? 
  2. To which character in the book could you relate the most, and why? 
  3. How did the setting impact the story?
  4. What themes could you detect?
  5. What surprised you most about the book?
  6. Did you come across any thought-provoking or striking quotes?
  7. What did you learn from reading this book?
  8. Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

If you are using the Achieve Careers English HL Programme, the following information is recommended to support the facilitation of these topics.

  • Grade 8 ENG HL: Section 4 (pp. 74-76)
  • Grade 9 ENG HL: Section 4 (pp. 78-79)


“The Achieve Careers English programme promotes critical and creative thinking and engages students in an exciting and interactive manner. The manuals, grammar guides, setwork resources and tasks have been carefully curated, and a great deal of thought and passion have gone into each activity. The Achieve Careers team is invested in developing wonderful content and supporting all teachers who are part of the programme.” 

Daniella De Wit, English teacher and HOD Academics, Pinnacle College Waterfall

Plastic Free July


  1. School Library Journal. (2014) Are Teenagers Reading Less? [Online], Available: [18 July 2022]
  2. Goodreads. The Boy and the Poacher’s Moon, [Online], Available: [18 July 2022]
  3. Goodreads. October, October, [Online], Available: [18 July 2022]
  4.  Gorelik, K. (2017) Seven Ways Audiobooks Benefit Students who Struggle with Reading, [Online], Available: [14 July 2022]
Share This Post
This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Please accept to continue or refer to Terms of Use here.