Day-to-day life is certainly stressful at the moment as teachers and parents work to provide structure and activities to keep kids occupied and learning during this unusual time. But, when the day is feeling a bit too much with all that is going on, I believe one of the best things we can do for our kids is to take a step back and just enjoy reading. Whether that means independent reading for older children, or reading aloud with a young person of any age, that time spent embracing a book or audiobook can have such a positive impact — and it can also provide such wonderful benefits too!
Without a doubt the primary benefit of setting aside a little bit of reading time each day for children and teenagers is that it helps foster a love of reading and can provide a positive outlet amid a very stressful time. Reading also exposes young people to the world around them in a safe way while also teaching empathy and critical thinking skills. But, there are also plenty of academic and developmental benefits linked to reading daily that have been studied for years.
By just reading for 20 minutes a day, kids will hear 1.8 million words per year and are more likely to become lifelong readers. For young children, the American Academy of Pediatrics has also studied brain development associated with reading to children at an early age as part of aiding reading readiness.
To help readers at home (especially early readers) engage with the importance of daily reading, keep in mind that re-reading books is great! It helps with fluency as young people enjoy bonding with stories and characters that bring them joy. If a child or teen also wants to read a book for pleasure that is considered too “easy” for them, that is okay! The important thing is that they are engaging with words and building a love of reading. By telling young people there are only certain types of books they are allowed to read, it discourages them and leaves a negative association with the reading process. And, lastly, ask your students and children about what they’re reading. Young people are often excited to talk about the books they love.
If you have children at home or students who may be in need of a reading engagement activity, creating a fun way to encourage at least 20 minutes of reading a day can help make it habit. Special treats for completing a certain number of hours is similar to what many public libraries do for summer reading. And Pizza Hut’s BOOK-IT Program can be organized through teachers as a reading incentive program during the traditional school year.
If you’re looking for an easy option to use at home for your kids to keep track of their reading progress, I have also created a Reading Tracker (pictured below). Each circle represents 20 minutes of reading, and a completed full page represents five hours of reading time. Feel free to download the printable here and use at your home. I hope it helps!