Reading for fun is one of the most beneficial activities that middle and high school students can do. Not only does it help improve reading skills, but it also allows students to explore new interests and learn about different cultures.
Our adolescents get plenty of digital media, including the internet, texts, video games, and social media. But are they balancing that with legacy media (books, articles, and magazines) that can help them develop into well-rounded, thoughtful, and engaged citizens?
What is the difference between reading for school & recreational reading?
When adolescents read for school, it’s mostly to learn about a particular subject.
Recreational reading is done for enjoyment & fun. It can be anything from magazines to novels to comic books.
Louise Rosenblatt differentiates the two by calling them efferent reading, the kind of reading we do when looking for information, instead of aesthetic reading, which is done for enjoyment.
Why is reading for fun so important?
Recreational Reading: Why It’s Important
Leisure reading helps tweens & teens develop higher EQs.
Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the ability to understand your own emotions and the feelings of others.
EQ considers things like empathy and the ability to recognize other people’s perspectives. These skills make kids better students, better future employees, and better people.
Reading facilitates emotional intelligence by giving people a better understanding of others’ emotions. It also allows people to see the world from different perspectives, which can help them to be more understanding and tolerant.
Recreational reading increases blood flow to different areas of the brain.
When an adolescent reads for pleasure, their brain experiences many positive effects. For one, it increases blood flow to different areas of the brain. This increased blood flow can improve cognitive functioning and memory, and it can boost creativity.
The brain is like a muscle. It needs regular “exercise” to remain “in shape” and perform at its best. So, when your teen takes some time out for a little recreational reading, they’re doing their brain a favor!
Encourage your teen to pick up a book (or ebook) and get lost in a good story. It may just be the best thing they do for their brain all day!
Reading for fun improves concentration.
Recreational reading can improve concentration. When they’re reading for fun, they’re engaged in the story and aren’t thinking about anything else. This unburdening allows them to focus more on the task and concentrate better.
Additionally, reading for fun can improve your teen’s ability to read faster and comprehend what they’re reading. When they’re interested in the story, they’re more likely to pay attention to the details and remember what they’ve read.
So if your teen wants to improve their concentration, ask them to try reading for fun! It just might help.
Tweens & teens who read recreationally gain confidence when speaking.
Reading helps to improve overall vocabulary, including words specific to a particular field or topic.
Reading can help build confidence when speaking. Often, teens are more hesitant to speak up in a conversation if they’re not confident in their ability to express themselves. Reading can help remedy that by giving them a broader vocabulary to use in everyday conversation.
Finally, reading can also help adolescents learn about new topics and cultures, which can come in handy when trying to have a conversation with someone from a different background.
Reading can improve your adolescent’s state of mind.
Recreational reading improves mental health. For teens, this is especially important, as they are going through many changes both mentally and physically. Reading can help them learn more about themselves, understand their feelings, and develop empathy for others.
Reading helps teens relax and calm down. It can help them get lost in a story and forget about their problems for a while. Reading can improve focus and attention span.
Overall, reading is an excellent way for teens to improve their mental health. It can help them learn more about themselves and the world around them, providing relief from stress and anxiety.
Still not convinced that reading is beneficial for your teen’s mental health? Check out this article from the National Education Association, which discusses how to raise ready readers: “Raising Ready Readers – and Keeping Them That Way.”
Some things you can do to get your teen excited about reading
Invest in a kindle or other e-reader!
My kids love ebooks. Bonus: You can connect your teen’s kindle to the library, where all of the books are FREE!
Get them an audible subscription!
If your teen resists reading, maybe they’d prefer listening to books. Try gifting them an Audible Subscription here. For more information on the benefits of audiobooks, see Five Surprising Benefits of Audiobooks for Kids.
Make their reading space fun with a book cart or shelf!
We have several book carts, and my kids love them! They can decorate them with magnets or stickers and display their favorite books. Bonus: These carts reduce clutter!
Some kids gravitate toward manga or magazines. Lean in!
For more ideas, see Want Your Child To Read More: Act Now With These 15 Easy Tips & 5 Ways to Solve the “My Child Hates Reading” Dilemma.
If you want to get your teen excited about reading, several things can help. If they’re unsure where to start or what they should be reading, take some time to discover their interests. From magazines and e-readers to audiobooks and bookshelves, the options for getting them interested in reading are practically endless.
Make it clear how essential recreational reading is when considering how it helps adolescents improve cognitive functioning and concentration while boosting creativity.
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