Little girl reading a book

Family Health, Child Health, News | one month ago

The Magic of Summer Reading: How to Help Kids and Teens Build a Reading Habit

Reading is excellent for kids’ and teens’ learning and development, but getting them to establish a reading habit can be challenging. Here are some expert tips from a pediatrician to encourage your child to read more this summer.

Just because school’s out for the summer, doesn’t mean your child has to put all their books away. Cultivating a summer reading habit is fantastic for their learning and development — and it can even be fun.

“The summer is a wonderful time to continue supporting and encouraging children’s and teens’ love of reading,” says Dr. LaMonica Barnum, a pediatrician at Atrium Health Levine Children's Stanly Pediatrics.

Dr. Barnum suggests contacting your child’s teachers to help generate a list of books, stories or articles that may interest your child.

The benefits of reading for kids and teens

“Exploring the world of books is not only enjoyable, but also offers many health benefits,” says Barnum. “Reading is a cognitive activity that stimulates the brain.” 

A regular reading habit can:

  • Expand your child’s general knowledge.
  • Increase comprehension and memory skills.
  • Grow their vocabulary.
  • Improve focus and concentration.
  • Enhance their spelling skills.
  • Boost their self-esteem.
  • Help them be more empathetic toward others.
  • Give them a break from social media, television and Internet scrolling.

Reading can even support good mental health.

“Adolescents who read books experience increased optimism and mindfulness and decreased rates of depression and anxiety,” she says. 

How to get kids and teens to read more

“One way to help foster kids wanting to read more and to encourage a love for reading is by simply making it fun,” says Barnum. “Any time you can connect an activity with their reading, it will greatly benefit the children and foster quality time [together].”

Here are a few fun ways to encourage reading in your family:

  • Take your child to sign up for a library card. Check out a few books each week or use an app like Hoopla and Libby to download library materials (such as e-books and audiobooks) to your tablet or e-reader.
  • Participate in your local library’s summer reading program. The camaraderie and prizes can be a special incentive to encourage your kid to read more.
  • Explore an interactive reading app. Some apps offer animations and music to accompany reading, customized reading recommendations, fun quizzes to test their knowledge, and more features to suit your child’s age and current skills.
  • If you’re visiting the zoo or vacationing in a new place this summer, encourage them to read about the animals or locations they may encounter.
  • Read out loud together before bedtime.
  • If there is a treat or snack mentioned in a book, make it together after they have completed the book.
  • Listen to audiobooks in the car.
  • Pack reading materials when you travel.
  • Create a special cozy reading space for them in their room or elsewhere in the home.
  • Keep a variety of reading materials around, including fiction and nonfiction books, magazines, article print-outs, cookbooks and comic books.
  • Read a book together as a family, then have a book club discussion or watch the movie based on the book.
  • Ask them questions about the book they’re reading, such as, “Who’s your favorite character?” or “What do you think is going to happen?”
  • Be a role model by becoming a reader yourself.
  • Attend virtual story times online.

For older teens, creating a poolside or lake/beach book club can encourage learning during the summer break.

“Teens like to ‘hang out,’” says Barnum. “So, why not encourage socialization with engaging discussions of books over the summer? This will help foster the critical thinking skills they will need in the future.”

Keeping kids’ minds sharp during school breaks

Even during a break from school, it’s essential for kids and teens to partake in educational activities. Unfortunately, says Barnum, many kids experience an educational decline during school breaks.

“It takes, on average, about four to six weeks to regain those skills once school starts again,” she explains. “Educational activities in the summer help create a bridge across learning gaps and help maintain scholastic skills until the new school year starts.”

In addition to reading, these activities won’t necessarily feel like “school,” but can help your child keep their mind sharp during summer break: 

  • Games to work on math skills
  • Home science experiments
  • Coloring
  • Doing simple art projects 

A love of reading can last a lifetime

When you encourage your child to read, you’re helping them build a hobby and skill that can last a lifetime.

“Reading is one of the most important skills you can encourage in your child or teen,” says Barnum.

Have questions about your child’s learning and development? Find an Atrium Health Levine Children’s pediatrician near you.