How to Add to Your Teen’s High School Book List with a Challenge

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Sometimes reading with teens gets tricky, especially if you have a teen who marches to the beat of a different drum. Some of our out of the box teens read almost non-stop. Others almost never slow down enough to read. So, how we can encourage our neurodivergent teens to read? How to Add to Your Teen’s High School Book List with a Challenge will share a strategy for shaking up what shapes our teens’ high school book lists and diversify their reading.

smiling teen boy holding a Kindle

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The idea of simple reading challenges came to me while I was preparing an activity for my Little Free Library. One of my favorite things is to steward a Little Free Library in memory of my dad, who was a big reader.

Every now and then I like to share seasonal treats out there and offer activities like scavenger hunts.

For Valentine’s Day a few years ago, I made hearts and taped them to pencils and put them in a cup inside the library.

The reading challenges were simple and inviting.

For example, one said, “Read in a Tree.”

This year, as I brought the heart reading challenges back after a two year hiatus, I thought about how I could expand the simple reading challenge into something more enchanting for teens.

And, this list was born.

The Reading Challenge for Teens

a little free library box at the top of a sledding hill with lots of snow and some sledders in the background on a sunny day

My Little Free Library is located at the playground pad of the park behind our home. It gets visitors in the winter too!

The lists below are broken up into categories and there are over 60 ideas for you.

You could choose to use the list any way you’d like. See the notes below and how to get this going.

You’ll find challenges that speak to:

  • book genre
  • reading location
  • book characters
  • real life people
  • reading aloud
  • something your teen wants to learn
  • something they need to know better
  • non-fiction
  • movies
  • books about books

Some of the challenges are more high school choice.

Some are adventurous ideas from childhood.

But, however you work with them, your teen is destined to add to their reading list- on their terms.

Remember that you and your teen have permission to curate their reading list.

Get started and see what comes of it!

How to Use the Reading Challenges

hearts taped to pencils with reading challenges written on the strewn on a surface

This strategy may not resonate with all of your teens.

That’s ok.

The idea is to give your teens the opportunity to choose a challenge that works for them.

You might be surprised at what they decide to read.

Simple reading challenges will help your teen to personalize their reading list.

When it comes to homeschooling neurodivergent teens, choice is a big deal.

It goes a long way.

Remember that you and your teen have the option to curate their reading list for high school.

And there are a lot of things you can do with your reading list to prepare for college (we talk a lot about this inside Homeschooling High School by Design Membership).

So, find a fun way to share the reading challenges with your students.

Some ideas for you:

  • Put the challenges on strips of paper and put them in a jar
  • Strew them on seasonal shapes of choice (like the hearts for my Little Free Library) onto a high traffic surface
  • Give them a bingo sheet with some ideas on it- you might even let them fill their own in
  • Print a check list with the challenges on them
  • Place a stack of them in a basket for them to flip through

Whatever you choose, you can hold some back and rotate the stack of ideas to keep them fresh.

If your teen keeps choosing similar books, that’s ok!

The best part is the choosing and the reading.

Teen Reading Challenges by Book Genre

We just replaced our first gen Paperwhite with the new model. Swoon.

This section of the list includes challenges based on book genre.

  • Read a mystery
  • Read a type of book you normally don’t read
  • Read a fantasy
  • Read a classic
  • Read a biography about someone you admire
  • Read a biography about someone you don’t know
  • Read a play
  • Read your favorite picture book
  • Read a book with a famous detective
  • Read a novel normally meant for younger children
  • Read an almanac
  • Read a dystopic novel
  • Read a book about a book
  • Read an atlas
  • Read an atlas about a fictional place
  • Read a field guide
  • Read a biography about a scientist
  • Read a biography about an author
  • Read a graphic novel

Teen Reading Challenges by Topic

stack of field guides on a book shelf

This next section of the list includes ideas for reading books by topic.

  • Read a book about a place you’d like to visit
  • Read a book by David McCullough
  • Read a book about a real life journey
  • Read a book about another continent you’d like to see
  • Read a book about a real life mystery
  • Read a book about a historical event
  • Read a fictional book about or involving math
  • Read a book on something you need to learn better
  • Read a book on something you want to know more about
  • Read a book about a place you’d like to visit
  • Read a book by Jane Austen
  • Read a book about something you’ve always wanted to learn
  • Read a book about the outdoors
  • Read a story by your favorite author
  • Read a story about an animal
  • Read a story that’s been recommended to you
  • Read a book about snow
  • Read a book where the main character has something in common with you
  • Read a book that’s never been made into a movie

Teen Reading Challenges that Are Just for the Fun of It

Redwall books on a bookshelf

This category is all about the fun!

  • Re-read your favorite book
  • Leave a note & tell me what your favorite book is and why
  • Read aloud to your pet for 10 minutes
  • Finish a book you started a long time ago
  • Read a new book while sipping hot chocolate
  • Tell a friend about your favorite book
  • Read a book because you like the cover
  • Listen to an audio book
  • Read a book while lying on your bed
  • Read a book outside
  • Read a book to a family member
  • Read a book at night with a flashlight
  • Read a poem while enjoying tea & snacks
  • Write a letter to a friend and tell them about a book you’re reading
  • Read the book that goes with your favorite movie
  • Read a book & watch the movie
  • Read a book & play a related game
  • Read a book in your favorite place to sit
  • Read a book as a family and have a book club night to discuss it
  • Choose a book to read with your friends and have a book club night

Letter writing is a lost art. One of these challenges is to have your teen write a friend to tell them about their favorite book or a book they’re reading.

You could expand on this by writing to relatives who need some company. I can’t resist sharing this gem of a book called, Write Back Soon! Adventures in Letter Writing.

More Strategies for Reading with Your Teens

a teen boy reading a Kindle with his elbow leaning on an exercise ball

100 Books You Should ]Read by the Time You Turn 20– this is a book list written by teens for teens in response to the NPR list of the top 100 books.

How to Choose Books for Anxious & Sensitive Teens– not every book is for every teen and if you have a neurodivergent teen who struggles with anxiety and depression, curating the right book list is important.

How to Know If a Book Is Too Much for Your Anxious & Sensitive Teens– it’s ok to dump out of a book that is too much for your teen. If your philosophy is for them to experience it now vs later, give this a read.

Summer Reading Challenge without the Carrot & the Stick– this post is due for an update which is imminent because now I know the why behind the rewards that don’t work for my teens. This is a must read if you want to immerse your teens with books without a reward system (which mostly works for kids and teen who don’t really need the extra motivation…)

Sign up & Get More Support for Reading with Your Teens Meaningfully

When you subscribe, you’ll receive the free guide, How to Engage Your Teen with Books: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Reading with Teens.

After homeschooling high school for over 10 years, I’ll share tips for making connections with your teens through books, even when you don’t have time to read everything their reading.

Plus, you’ll get even more support for homeschooling out of the box, sick, and neurodivergent teens.


Find Mentoring & Community as You Homeschool Neurodivergent Teens

One of the tough things about homeschooling teens who struggle with mental illness or any neurodivergence like learning disabilities, ADHD, autism, etc., is that it can be isolating.

It’s hard to watch our teen’s peers roll on with their normal, when our teen is falling behind due to their neurodivergence.

Homeschooling High School by Design Membership is all about providing community and live calls to help you with issues related to homeschooling out of the box, neurodivergent, or sick teens.

You don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to have a helping hand as you navigate launching your teen!

Find out how Homeschooling High School by Design Membership can help you feel confident in homeschooling your out of the box teens.

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