Do your kids read for fun in high school?

According to Dr. Daniel Willingham in Raising Kids Who Read, the average high schooler reads 6 minutes per day for pleasure. What that really means, he explains, is that a few kids read for pleasure quite a lot… and most don’t read for pleasure at all.

Karen recently called in to ask me what my own kids read for fun in high school… and I’ve got lots of suggestions in this post!

In this episode, you’ll hear:
  • deciding what goal you have for your high schooler’s reading life
  • whether high school reading should be “hard”
  • tons of recommendations from my teens and adult children (weird, I now have 2 of those!)
Click the play button below or scroll down to keep reading.

What’s Your Goal?

Whenever we think about our high schoolers, it’s useful to start by considering our goals for them. What is your goal for your child’s reading life in high school?

A good way to get clear on this is to fill in the blanks in this sentence:

After my child graduates, my son can ____, he still knows ____ and he values ____. 

Go ahead! Do it right now. I can wait! :)

The reason this is helpful is because many of us fall into the habit of thinking that our kids should be reading mostly hard books in high school.

But … Why?

You are the expert on your own homeschool.

No one else can tell you what your kids should read in high school, since no one else knows your kids as well as you do (or is responsible for raising them, like you are).

That’s good news! It means once you can fill in those blanks, you’ll have an idea for what the point of reading is in your high schooler’s life to begin with.

After my child graduates, my son can ____, he still knows ____ and he values ____. 

So many cascading decisions are clarified for us when we start with our goal. 

For example, when I fill in those sentences, I realize that I don’t really need to challenge my kids’ reading ability in high school. 

My goals revolve around my kids loving to read, doing it a lot for pleasure, and being able to discuss the ideas they encounter there with ease.

All of those skills can be developed without necessarily “challenging” their reading level.

Don’t Worry Too Much About ‘Reading Level’

It’s interesting to note that most of what adults read lies between the 8th-10th grade reading level. The newspaper, magazines, adult novels – they usually fall somewhere in this range.

And yet we don’t worry that we aren’t reading at a high enough level if we’re reading, say, Time Magazine, the newspaper, or the latest Pulitzer Prize winning book, right?

I asked my 18-year-old to share what she’s read for fun in high school, and she said, “Almost everything I read in high school is for fun!”

Remember: Always Start with Your Goal

Below is a BIG list of books that have been huge hits with my kids, and of course books I’ve adored.

But remember: you always want to start with your goal.

If you need more recommendations or your kids have read most of the books I’ve just mentioned, try looking at They have excellent reviews and recommendations about recently published books that I highly recommend.

Books mentioned in the show

Leepike Ridge
Boys of Blur
Pride and Prejudice
The Bark of the Bog Owl: The Wilderking Trilogy, Book 1
Steelheart (Reckoners Book 1)
Unbroken (The Young Adult Adaptation): An Olympian’s Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive
Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster
A Fall of Marigolds
Marilla of Green Gables: A Novel
The Boys in the Boat (Young Readers Adaptation): The True Story of an American Team’s Epic Journey to Win Gold at the 1936 Olympics
Lovely War
The Lazy Genius Way
Atomic Habits
Murder on the Orient Express
The Downstairs Girl
Pride & Prejudice
Fountains of Silence
The Last Bookshop in London
Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25
Outliers: The Story of Success
On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness
The Father Brown Reader: Stories from Chesterton
The Goose Girl
The Screwtape Letters

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from the Read-Aloud Revival

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