5 Reasons To Get Your Child Reading This Summer


School is almost out for the summer! In between trips to the pool and runs through the sprinkler, make sure your kids have time to read. Summer is the perfect season to nurture a love of reading since kids have plenty of free time—and no required reading.

“Show your kids that reading is fun,” says Daniel Gisslen, M.D., a pediatrician at Henry Ford Health. “Take them to the library and let them pick out books, while assuring they’re at an appropriate reading level. Libraries often have summer reading programs that can incentivize them, too.”    

And make sure you are reading. If parents read, children are more likely to read. “It’s like with everything else,” says Dr. Gisslen. “If you eat your vegetables, your kids are more likely to eat vegetables, too.”

The best way to develop reading skills is by being diligent. Dr. Gisslen suggests finding 15 to 20 minutes each day for your child to read in a location that is free from distraction.

Aside from the fact that reading is just plain fun, Dr. Gisslen shares five additional proven benefits of summer reading. 

1. Reading prevents “brain drain.” Brain drain describes the loss of academic gains that students make over the course of the school year. Reading, however, helps preserve some of these gains. “The subject they read doesn’t matter,” says Dr. Gisslen. “Just the act of reading keeps the brain engaged and can help your child in all areas of school.”

2. Reading improves attention span. Too much screen time can lead to a shortened attention span, but reading may help counteract that. “Reading can improve a child’s ability to concentrate,” says Dr. Gisslen. “I’m personally a fan of physical books. They engage us more and help us remember the story better. You can check out digital copies at the library—and it’s certainly better than not reading—but you absorb more information with physical books, being able to hold the book and turn the pages.”

3. Reading stimulates brain development. The benefits of reading on brain development goes back to the late 1970s. “Researchers have found that reading has a huge positive impact on brain development, even for infants,” says Dr. Gisslen. “Reading to an infant is a positive experience: They enjoy hearing a soothing voice. They’re listening to the words you’re saying. The more words they’re exposed to, the better their language skills will be.”

When reading to young children, don’t feel like you’re tied to the words on the page. Use it as a starting point to ask them questions. “Toddlers often want you to read the same few books over and over again. That’s how they learn,” says Dr. Gisslen. “Go through the book and have them find all of the noses, or everything that’s the color red. Or have them interpret what’s going on in the pictures. So many great children’s books have best illustrations that help to engage kids and further the story.”

4. Reading helps children learn empathy. “While reading, you start to identify with the main characters and that really helps children to learn and understand empathy,” says Dr. Gisslen. “Books are a great way of exploring your world or another person’s world.”

5. Reading comforts children—and promotes bonding. “Another benefit that is particularly relevant right now is the comfort reading gives children, especially when you’re reading to them,” says Dr. Gisslen.

“Putting them on your lap, snuggling with them under a blanket—it’s a great way to bond. It reduces toxic stress and helps kids calm down. And whatever the age, reading together is an excuse to spend time together. It can spark great discussions about the story, the feelings your child has about the story and how it relates or differs to their own lives.”

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To find a pediatrician at Henry Ford Health, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-436-7936.

Daniel Gisslen, M.D., is a pediatrician at Henry Ford Health. He sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Center--Southfield.

Categories: ParentWell