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Books to Help Teens Develop a Better Vocabulary

By Daisy Peasblossom Fernchild ; Updated June 13, 2017

According to, the National Assessment of Educational Progress revealed that teens who read for pleasure at least one hour a day had higher vocabulary scores than their peers who did not read as often. English teachers and librarians are aware that getting a teen to read may be difficult, but that it will increase vocabulary, social awareness and writing skills. Getting them to read books with good vocabulary comes after convincing them to read.

Any Reading is Better Than No Reading

Syrupy romances, fan fiction, shoot 'em up Westerns or way-out-there science fiction and fantasy all have the potential to build vocabulary. According to YALSA, the young adult branch of the American Library Association, you can encourage your teen to read by letting him see you read, keeping plenty of good books on hand, using audio books for travel time, and giving gift certificates to the book store as special gifts or rewards. Also, remember that reading should be fun.

Working Your Way Up

While classics are certainly excellent vocabulary builders, they probably aren't the best place to start, especially if your child is convinced that he doesn't like to read. Check with your library for the books on their hot list. One of the most popular trilogies for 2012 and 2013 is the "Hunger Games" trilogy. From there, because "Hunger Games" is dystopian literature, you might be able to springboard to "The Giver" and "Lord of the Flies."

Don't Discount the Power of a New Toy

Tablets, Kindles and Nooks look way more cool to your teen than reading a plain, old book. If you want to avoid general web surfing and gaming, focus on getting a dedicated book reader. Subscribe to a magazine or two in your teen's chosen field of interest, load a few books and give him a budget for new selections. Some ideas might include "A Monster Calls" by Patrick Ness, "All Good Children," by Catherine Austen or "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children," by Ransom Riggs, all of which made the YALSA Teen's Top Ten list for 2012.

Magazines and Nonfiction Graphic Novels

If the sight of a full-sized book will scare your teen into a marathon session of TV watching, a magazine subscription might be the way to coax him into reading. Scholastic has three titles geared toward teens, "Junior Scholastic," "Scope" and "Science World." When it comes to reading, a picture really can be worth a thousand words; getting your teen to read them, that is. YALSA lists "A Game For Swallows: To Die, To Leave, To Return," by Zeina Abirached, "My Friend Dahmer", by Derf Backderf and "Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb" by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm as three nonfiction Great Graphic Novels for 2013.

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