Help your teen develop a lifelong love of reading.

Reading Incentive Ideas for Teenagers

by Oubria Tronshaw

If it isn't a text message or a reality show recap, many teens aren't interested in reading. To ensure success in college and beyond, parents and teachers must find a way to make books exciting -- or at least appealing. One of most effective approaches is to lead by example. If you don't pick up a book every once in a while, your teen likely won't either.


Rewarding teens who read with a cool stunt is one way to encourage literacy, according to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. The organization found that group rewards were more effective than individual rewards, as individual incentives in exchange for certain activities can often undervalue the importance of the activity. The Commission recommends setting group reading goals, and, if the goal is met, performing a stunt that can double as publicity for the cause. Parents can go out in public dressed up as the most ridiculous character from their teen's favorite book, for example, or spend a 24-hour period camped on the front lawn.


Since teens are often less eager to read than younger children, individual gifts might be required for motivational purposes. Incentive ideas include movie or concert tickets, free book vouchers, video games, electronic book readers, gift cards, extended curfews or chore-free weekends.

Subject Matter

Being presented with interesting and/or relevant subject matter can also inspire teens to read. Find a way to market the books in a way that will pique teens’ interest. Create posters and other specialized promotional materials to post around schools, community centers and libraries. This approach can be used to get teens to read books that bring awareness to certain issues, such as teen depression and suicide prevention, teenage parenthood, teenage drug use and drunk driving, the dangers of driving and texting, and the exacerbation of peer pressure through social media. You can also find books that will help students meet their needs, like ways to use monetized blogs or online fundraising to earn money for college.

VIP Parties

Since teens often appreciate any opportunity to attend a party, use social events to lure them into a love for literature. Host a “book party,” where admission is the answer to a question that only someone who has read a specific preselected book would know.

Family Night

As teens get older and their social lives become just as important as their family lives, parents may feel the need to find more creative ways to have quality time together with their teens. Parents can kill two birds with one stone by offering to read any book their teen chooses and then have a pizza night to discuss the text together.

About the Author

Oubria Tronshaw specializes in topics related to parenting and business. She received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chicago State University. She currently teaches English at Harper Community College in the Chicago area.

Photo Credits

  • George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images