Reading as Teen Therapy: The Power of a Good Book

Teen reads in bed as therapy

“I believe that reading and writing are the most nourishing forms of meditation anyone has so far found,” wrote the American novelist Kurt Vonnegut Jr. in his autobiographical collage Palm Sunday. “By reading the writings of the most interesting minds in history, we meditate with our own minds and theirs as well. This, to me, is a miracle.”

The Power of Reading: How Literature Changes Lives

Literature can challenge our assumptions and beliefs, forcing us to reconsider the world around us with critical eyes. Encountering other viewpoints by reading a good book can foster empathy and understanding for people and cultures different from us. Connecting with fictional characters (and learning from them) can have a powerful impact on our outlook on life.

New English Teacher Inspires Teens to Love Books

Greg Hall is the new English teacher at Turning Winds. He has been an educator for two decades, and for the past eight months, Hall has been teaching our clients with a strong emphasis on reading, writing, and grammar fundamentals. His main task though is to make a positive difference in the kids’ lives by fostering a love for reading. “That’s what it takes to become a life-long learner. We’ll read something and then talk about it and I try to make it as relevant for them as possible.”

There are typically only five to six students for each teacher. “That way we can work individually with them and build relationships that help them succeed,” says Hall. “Academics is a really important part of our program,” says Turning Winds CEO Owen Baisden. “We have small classrooms with 8–12 students and there is lots of one-on-one instruction.”

At the same time, Turning Winds offers a full continuum of care for teens with mental health needs. Our clients achieve success through a combination of therapeutic and educational approaches that together provide the best possible outcomes.

Critical Thinking and Growth: The Turning Winds Curriculum

The curriculum used by Turning Winds stretches the mind of the student and fosters growth in critical thinking skills and knowledge application. Students learn at their own pace, with activities designed to help them reach their fullest potential.

We offer a standardized, grade-appropriate curriculum at the middle and high school levels, developed and taught by Montana-certified teachers. Classes are taught through independent studies and by teacher direction in a regular classroom. We specialize in the core subjects of math, reading, science, and social studies.

As many parents know all too well, it’s not easy to get today’s kids interested in reading books. “Kids nowadays are completely wired for sound with video games, cell phones, and things like that. So, who’s gonna read a book when you can play ‘Call of Duty’ for three hours a day? At Turning Winds we don’t have these distractions 24/7. That makes Turning Winds much more of an academic environment.”

Strategy: Reigniting a Teen’s Love for Reading

Instead of succumbing to relentless distractions, students are exposed to food for thought—the kind of nourishing meditation Vonnegut talked about. Hall recently used a book called Flowers for Algernon in class—a short story by Daniel Keyes that was later also expanded into a novel.

It is about a 37-year-old man called Charlie who has a very low IQ and works a menial job as a janitor in a factory. Charlie attends a literacy program hoping to improve his intelligence. He is then selected to undergo experimental surgery to increase his intelligence, a technique that was first tested on a mouse called Algernon. The surgery on Charlie seems a success because his IQ triples.

As his intelligence improves, Charlie’s perception broadens, and he realizes that things are entirely different from what he had perceived them to be. As Charlie’s IQ peaks, Algernon’s suddenly declines. Charlie’s mental acuity turns out to be temporary as well. Unable to bear the thought of being dependent and pitied by his friends and co-workers, he decides to leave.

Important themes in Flowers for Algernon include the treatment of people with mental health challenges, the impact of conflict between intellect and emotion, and how events in the past can influence a person later in life. “There are so many elements in this story that relate to our students,” says Hall who had a very engaging discussion about the book with his students.

Why reading is a therapy tool at Turning Winds

The goal of Turning Winds is to turn hearts and minds toward a brighter future—one step at a time. “I am constantly preaching to them that 90 percent of success is just showing up,” Hall says. “Just show up and make the effort. Just try to do the best you can. That applies to therapy, school, community life—all of it. I’ve seen kids who embrace this do some amazing work.”

The process of learning itself can be powerfully therapeutic. The mindful pursuit of education can relate to all areas of life. At Turning Winds, educators help students see parallels between the rigors of academic life and the pursuit of a meaningful personal life.

Our team wants to make sure that every student gets the education and support they need for success. We work closely with the counseling departments in every student’s previous school to fill in any gaps in their current educational path.

Over more than twenty years, we’ve built a team of some of the world’s finest academic and therapeutic professionals, all of whom share the same goal: to help teens re-engage meaningfully with their lives, families, and their futures.

Contact us online for more information, or call us at 800-845-1380. If your call isn’t answered personally, one of us will get back to you as soon as possible.


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Picture of John Baisden, Jr

John Baisden, Jr

John Baisden Jr is the father of seven inspiring children, and he is married to Kara, the love of his life. Together they have created a family-centered legacy by leading the way with early childhood educational advancement. John loves to write and is an author of a children’s book, An Unlikely Journey and plans to publish additional books. Show More

John is a visionary in his work and applies “outside-the-box” approaches to business practice and people development. He is the Founder of Turning Winds, along with several other organizations. He has extensive experience launching and developing organizations. His skills include strategic planning, promoting meaningful leader-member movement, organizational change, effective communication, project management, financial oversight and analysis, digital marketing and content creation, and implementing innovative ideas through influential leadership. As a leader, John seeks to empower others and brand success through collaborative work. His vision is to lead with courage, grit, truth, justice, humility, and integrity while emphasizing relational influence rather than focusing on the sheens of titles, positions, or things.

Finally, John is passionate about life and promoting equity among those who are often overlooked because of differences that frequently clash with the “norm.” He lives in Southern Idaho and loves the outdoors and the life lessons that can be learned in such an informal environment.

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