Published November 30, 2021
We’ve all heard about the importance of reading. Teachers talk about it in class. Literacy campaigns emphasize it on posters. You even see TV characters leading by example. But not every parent knows why reading is so important for their child’s development, or how to make reading a lifestyle for their family. In this article, we get into the specifics of both—because with winter break just around the corner, now’s the perfect time for your kids to discover the magic of reading!
The Benefits of Reading
You’d be right to assume that reading is good for your child’s brain. But Healthline, a leading source of online medical information, explains that it’s also good for their physical health and for developing their social skills.
Reading Helps Your Child’s Brain Develop
Books expose your kids to a ton of new words, sentence structures, and thought ladders. And that exposure has a really positive effect on their academic performance. Reading has been shown to improve vocabulary, attention span, and creativity. It’s also been linked to higher test scores, college admissions, and job opportunities. Good things happen when your kids dive into a nice book and really get those synapses firing!
Reading Is Good for Your Child’s Physical Health
Healthline goes on to explain that not only is reading good for kids’ brains, but for their bodies, as well. Reading for just thirty minutes per day can lower their blood pressure, heart rate, and stress. It can also help them fall asleep by disengaging from the challenges of their day. Even when your child spends just a small part of their day reading, the mental and physical benefits are huge.
Reading Is Good for Your Child’s Emotional Development
Reading helps kids identify with new perspectives. Sometimes they’re just following along with the logic of the author. Other times, they’re walking a mile in another characters’ shoes. But either way, reading helps them see life from a different point of view. That’s been shown to increase empathy, improve personal relationships, and help kids operate at a higher level, socially.
So…in a nutshell, reading turns out to be great on multiple levels: mind, body, and soul!
Tips for Getting Your Kids to Read
And now it’s time to address the elephant in the room. With screen time on the rise, how do you actually get your kids to take up good, old-fashioned reading? The New York Times outlines a few great strategies that are sure to have them turning those pages with gusto.
You can do this in a few different ways, but an easy one is to try reading in front of your kids, then sharing something exciting that’s going on in your book. That can spark a similar excitement in them. You can also normalize reading through conversation. Try asking them leading questions, like “What are you reading right now?” This creates an expectation of reading and gives them an opportunity to engage. You can even build reading into the structure of your day. Instead of winding down in front of the TV, think about blocking off a solid thirty minutes for “family reading.” Making it a routine can ensure that it actually happens. It can also be a nice, peaceful way to spend time together.
Let Them Choose the Book
Required reading exists for a reason, but they already get plenty of that through school. When they’re reading for pleasure, the “pleasure” part of this equation is crucial. They might not gravitate to the classics. And that’s okay! The important thing is that they’re stimulating their brains and spending their free time in a healthy and productive way. As the New York Times explains, even comic books can be productive. As long as they’re stepping away from the screen and exposing themselves to new ideas, there’s a lot of great stuff that’s happening under the hood.
Try Not to Position Reading as a Chore
Some parents make their kids earn screen time through reading. For example, if they read for an hour, then they get to watch TV for an hour. But that positions reading as the “bad” thing and TV as the “good.” Instead, try to position reading as a reward. Let’s say their bedtime is 8:00. As the New York Times suggests, you might let your kids stay up until 8:30 as long as they’re reading. They might be excited about the prospect of staying up later. They might learn something. And they might even get more rest, since reading helps some people fall asleep.
Check-in with Their Teachers
A lot of kids might love the idea of reading, but have a little trouble doing it. So, check in with their teachers to get a feel for how they’re progressing. Do they need some extra help? Are they differently abled and processing information in their own way? These issues are both very common and easy to address as long as you know they exist. When you touch base with their teachers, you can identify challenges, pick age-appropriate books, and get everything right back on the winning track.
Reading is a critical part of your child’s development. And when you make it fun, you make it a habit. So, try to get the ball rolling this winter break. Let them choose the book. Treat reading as a reward. And make it a part of your family’s routine. Because if you can get your kids to choose reading, then you can get them to choose success.