In my time as a reader I have known quite a few friends who would rather read their Young Adult books than their school assigned ones so that is what they would do. One solution that parents may be fond of is to take away these "extra" books until their assignments are done. I disagree with this approach. While they should most definitely be reading their school material (especially their reading assignments for English class, as an English major I refuse to let kids miss out on the amazing literature they can get outside of the YA genre) I don't think that taking away their fun books will help. There are a few different ways to go about getting their work done while still allowing them to read what they want (one simple way is to give them a specific amount of chapters they can read their YA book after they have read a specific amount of chapters in their school book) but one that I think will not only get their work done (and keep them happy) but that will also help them appreciate the school work more, is to build a bridge between the two interests. I've written articles about some bridges between literature and young adult books before and I think it is time to bring them up again.
Young Adult fiction is an amazing platform for getting kids into reading all sorts of fiction as well as learning other things. For more advanced works assigned in English classes, what you have to do is find books that have similar story lines, themes, characters, or genres that will excite kids and teens and get them pumped to read the more advanced story. In fact, you can find books in the young adult section that are re-tellings of different classics. A little bit of internet research and some reading on the part of whoever is making the bridge can turn what was a boring assigned book or subject into a fun one. I was three years into my college career before I ever picked up Bram Stoker's Dracula and you know what made me want to pick it up? A graphic novel version of the story.
Another example would be Jason's Gold which made reading more advanced books about the gold rush fun for me as well. In fact, reading a Young Adult book set in certain time periods can easily help kids want to learn more about the geography and history of things. After reading books about knights and the time of kings and squires, learning about the dark ages becomes so much more fascinating in the same way that reading fiction set in Shakespeare's time makes reading a Shakespeare play more fun. When kids and teens have become attached to a character in a certain time period, they feel like they know that character and they want to know more about how they lived their lives and what their world was like. Reading good Young Adult fiction can create a hunger for learning in anyone who invests themselves into the stories. All you have to do is find ways to build bridges to the right books and subjects to help your children, or yourselves, to have a desire to learn rather than looking at it like a chore. When you find a subject that is interesting, it becomes fun to learn more about it. The trick is to find a book for each subject so that, for your teen, every subject becomes interesting.
If you don't know where to start, the internet is a good source but one of the best sources may be to go to your child's English teacher. Though they assign the heavy stuff, they too know a good Young Adult book when they see one. I am also always willing to give suggestions. The articles that I have written on specific bridges to literature are linked with this one so feel free to utilize those. Please take this article to heart and don't ever take the book away (unless, and this is an entirely separate circumstance, it is not an appropriate book in the first place) just help find the right books so that they can have fun reading and learning at the same time.