Expert tips for unlocking the power of summer reading

1 in 3 U.S. high school seniors did not read a book for pleasure in 2016

School’s (nearly) out for summer — but don’t put all the books away. Summer reading can be a gateway to a world of learning and enjoyment for kids and teens, offering numerous benefits for their minds and well-being, according to Atrium Health.

Reading is a cognitive exercise that stimulates the brain, pediatrician Dr. LaMonica Barnum told the health care company. However, many American adolescents are spending more time glued to screens than immersed in books.

Research by the American Psychological Association revealed 1 in 3 U.S. high school seniors did not read a book for pleasure in 2016. In the same time period, 82% of 12th graders visited Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites every day. In contrast, about 60% of high school seniors in the 1970s reported reading a book, magazine or newspaper every day, the study reported.

“Reading long-form texts like books and magazine articles is really important for understanding complex ideas and for developing critical thinking skills,” said Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology, according to the Washington Post. “It’s also excellent practice for students who are going on to college.”

To make reading an exciting part of your child’s summer, Barnum suggests integrating it into their favorite activities. Take them to the library to sign up for summer reading programs, explore interactive apps, and encourage them to read about the things and places they’ve encountered during summer adventures.

For older teens, Barnum recommends starting a summer book club by the pool or beach. This not only fosters socialization but also encourages critical thinking through lively book discussions.

And most importantl, according to the Post, model good reading behavior. “That almost goes without saying,” Daniel Willingham, a professor of psychology, told the newspaper. “If you’re nagging your child to read, and you’re just sort of on Instagram all the time, why in the world would they take that seriously?”

With every page turned, children and teens can enhance their knowledge, memory and comprehension skills, enrich their vocabulary, and even boost self-esteem and empathy, Atrium Health reported. Reading is one of the most valuable skills you can instill in your child or teen, Barnum emphasized.