Troubled Teens

Dear Ella and Suse,
I mentor a teenager who is in foster care. This is a request for her & all the other children who have had a very difficult start in life. They have experienced a variety of adversities, abuse, domestic violence,  parental drug & alcohol abuse, long term parental ill health & death neglect etc. They have had little or no positive  experiences in life. I have heard Susan speak & thought it would be great for them to read as another way of enhancing their Neuro physiological development & from that  their lives. But most are reluctant readers so I was wondering about what I think are called graphic books [like a comic] or books with pictures. Any ideas?  Best
wishes,
Seeking Help for Troubled Teens
Dear Seeking,
Thankyou so much for writing to us about this topic. We understand how difficult it can be to find the right books for teens who have experienced neglect and trauma, and who are not necessarily keen to read to themselves, especially with any kind of challenging books. We understand and agree that graphic novels could be the answer, and are a great idea. However, we also think that if you can in any way bring the children together to for reading aloud, when you can read to them, this can be a wonderfully warm and positive experience. It is of course a difficult thing to make happen, especially if the children are unkeen on the idea of books. But we have had wonderful experiences of reading aloud, and it can work brilliantly in a group too. Whether you try this alone with your fostered teen, or try to arrange a group reading session, we reccommend books like Fat Boy Swim by Catherine Forde, which is a positive, life-enhancing read about a boy who is very unhappy at the start of the book, overweight and with no self esteem; The 10PM Question by Kate de Goldi, which describes a boy whose mother never leaves home, and who experiences intense worries at night, but gradually finds ways of overcoming his own anxieties; and The Ant Colony by Jenny Valentine, a novel about a bully who sees the ways that he can improve his life and that of his victims. Jenny Valentine is a great writer for teens, and she is particularly good at entering the minds of teenagers who have had difficult starts in life. For slightly younger children, Kate Maryon is also brilliant, with her books like Invisible Girl ( about a girl who runs away from home to Manchester, and lives on the streets) and Shine, about a girl whose mother likes shiny bright things just a little bit too much. It may be that in order to persuade your own teen to read aloud with you, you have to couch it in the pretext of a school project, or that you yourself want to be read to, or you could try creating a lovely Sunday afternoon cosy reading moment together. If this seems too awkward, audio books are a brilliant way to get reluctant readers to imbibe good novels, and all of the above mentioned books are available on audio at audible.co.uk.
In terms of graphic novels, there are many that we love and recommend in our book, The Story Cure. One of our favourties is Blankets by Craig Thompson, which portrays a boy and a girl falling in love at a Christian camp - which they both rebel at in different ways. Beautifully drawn and written, this captures teenage romance and its accompanying joy and pain briliantly, while being a very easy and captivating read. We also love American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang, set in America, but capturing the experience of being an outsider that all teenagers experience, many more extremely than others. This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, is another fabulous graphic novel describing the difficulties around arguing grown-ups and secrets among teenagers. We have found that tweens and teens who are not keen on reading often react very well to graphic novels. Occasionally though, some readers find that the pictures actually put them off reading, and that large type face and creamy paper, can really help them to read. The series of books created by Barrington Stoke, aimed at kids with dyslexia, are tremendously helpful and produced with exactly these issues in mind. They make books for kids of all ages, and their teen novels are excellent - have a look at Pale by Chris Wooding, for instance ,and Bloodline by Kevin Brooks, for instance. But it's worth going to their website and having a look through all their options and thinking what might suit best. 
We hope this helps, and would love to hear feedback on how the books go down!
With all good wishes,
Ella and Suse
We prescribe - Blankets by Craig Thompson
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
This One Summer by Markio Tamaki
  • My suggestion is a little great book of Viktor E Frank, Man’s search for meaning.

    By lorena on 12 Feb 2017

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A SLUG WITH VISIONS OF HUMANITYABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP ENDED, LEAVING SCARSADULT ACNEAFRAID OF FAILUREALCOHOLIC DAUGHTERALONE ON A WIDE, WIDE SEAAlways wanted to be a writerANOREXICANXIOUS ABOUT SINGLE FRIENDAT A FORK IN THE ROADAVID READER, LACKING BOOKBEREFT OF A CATBORED IN ALABAMABOTHERED AND BEWILDEREDBRAIN SHRINKING MOMMABROKENBROKEN HEARTBROKEN HEARTED - TORN BETWEEN MALE AND FEMALE BEST FRIENDSBROKEN UP WITH GIRLFRIEND; FEELING BURNT OUTCAN’T MOVE ONCANDIDA REVOLTAIRECan’t afford to go on holidayCAST ASIDECHEATEDCHRONIC PAINCOLD HANDS AND FEETCONCERNED ABOUT DAUGHTERCONFLICTED PARTNERSCRAVING FOOD CULTURECYNICAL STEPSONDAILY ABUSEDARK NIGHT OF THE SOULDEPRESSED AND UNABLE TO READDEPRESSED DURING CHRISTMAS, AND LONELY NOWDESPERATELY WANTON GIRLDIRECTIONLESSEASILY BORED WITH NOVELSEMOTIONALLY SABOTAGED BY MY MOTHEREMOTIONS IN EXTREMEEVER THE FRIEND AND NOT THE PARTNEREXTREME ANGER AND FRUSTRATIONFADING AWAYFALLEN OUT WITH MY FRIENDSFALLING IN LOVE WAY TOO FASTFAZED AND CONFLICTEDFEAR OF CONFRONTATIONFEAR OF GETTING OLDFERTILITY PROBLEMSFOMO (FEAR OF MISSING OUT)FORGING A BRIGHT NEW FUTUREFRIEND WHO HAS LOST A CHILD LATE IN PREGNANCYFRIENDS DAUGHTER LOST TO SUICIDEFrightened of lifeGAPING HOLEGetting over a break-upGIRL OF UNCERTAINTY, BOUND BY RULESGIRL WHO DOESN’T FIT INGRIPPED BY LOSSGUILTY FRIENDHOPELESSNESSHOUSE AND LIBRARY DESTROYED BY FIREI love music more than booksI no longer commute – and therefore I no longer readI PEEK AT THE END OF NOVELS BECAUSE I WORRY THE CHARACTER MIGHT NOT MAKE ITI wish I were famousIN MOURNING OVER LITERARY DEATHSINABILITY TO SIT STILL AND ANXIETYINCONSISTENT AND NON-STUDIOUS- BUT AMBITIOUS NONETHELESSINDECISIVEINSECUREINTERESTED IN EVERYTHING BUT ACHIEVING NOTHINGINVISIBLE WOMANITALIAN NOVEL CURESJILTED AND UNSUREJOB IN LIBRARY UNDER THREATKICKED IN THE HEADLEADENLIVING ON THE MARGINSLONE RANGERLONELY AND DEJECTEDLONELY IN LOVELONELY IN MONOTONOUS JOB, LOSING SANITYLOOKING FOR A SENSE OF PURPOSELOOKING FORWARDSLOSS OF A SISTERLOSTLOW WATTAGELOW-ENERGY PESSIMISMMAD SCIENTISTMARRIED TO A MAN, ATTRACTED TO WOMENMISSED THE BOATMISSING MY MOTHER-IN-LAWMUM GOING BACK TO WORKNEED TO LET GONEW CITY, NEW LIFE -BOOKS FOR 12 YEAR OLD BOY?NEW FRIENDSHIP WITH HOLOCAUST SURVIVORNIGHTMARISH COLLEAGUENOMADIC FLANEURPOST NATAL DEPRESSIONPREGNANT AND ALONE