RA 101: Talking to Parents/Guardians About Teen Books

The opportunity to personally recommend great YA books to teens can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Sometimes things get in the way, there are challenges to face and unforeseen obstacles to overcome, and an endless to-read list to conquer. One challenge is the situation of recommending books for a teen who is either not present, or overshadowed by their parent or guardian.

Of course, at times there are very good reasons for the guardian to be up front and center about the teen’s reading needs. Maybe the teen is very shy, maybe she doesn’t know all the restrictions a parent puts on her reading, or perhaps the teen isn’t even present. No matter what, you’ve got to do your best to get the right books to the right teens, while still managing parental guidelines and interference.


Here are some strategies I’ve found to be very successful, and help me to foster a personal connection over YA books, with both teens and their guardians:

  • If the teen is present: 
    • Maintain contact with the teen through eye contact, physical proximity, etc.
    • Ask the teen for their name.
    • Ask questions to the teen, even if the adult is answering them.
    • Give the books directly to the teen, instead of handing them to the adult.
    • Ask the adult if there are restrictions on what the teen can read.
      • Rating, content maturity, type of content, etc.
      • Compare them to movies, video games, etc in order to get an idea of what content is allowed by the parent or guardian.
  • If the teen is not present:
    • Ask the adult if there are restrictions on what the teen can read!
      • Rating, content maturity, type of content, etc.
      • Compare them to movies, video games, etc in order to get an idea of what content is allowed by the parent or guardian.
    • Find out what the purpose of the reading is: enjoyment, assignment, or the parent wants them to be reading more.
    • Give the adult as many books to take back as you can, just in case they are way off in what they think the teen might enjoy reading.
    • Give the adult your contact information, so that they know how to reach you for more recommendations or to give feedback.

If you have experienced this situation, sound off in the comments about how you handle it! What techniques do you use to get at what a teen really wants to read when the parent or grandparent just won’t let the teen talk?

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