Reading is one of the best habits children can develop, as it has a myriad of benefits: it boosts focus, develops critical thinking skills, deepens empathy, and helps people learn about all kinds of topics. Reading comprehension skills have also been proven to be the strongest predictor future success (e.g. income potential), which can help overcome barriers such as socioeconomic status.
To maximize these benefits, kids should get into reading at a young age. Although it’s best to develop a reading habit by elementary school, middle school is still a good time for children to learn how to enjoy reading before they get too busy and set in their ways in high school. However, middle schoolers who have been assigned books that they find dull and/or are at the wrong level might start thinking that they dislike reading itself, and they’re likely to resist their parents’ efforts to persuade them otherwise.
So how can you encourage your middle schooler to develop a reading habit?
Let kids choose their own books: Children are much likelier to enjoy reading when given the opportunity to figure out what they actually want to read. If your kid doesn’t know what to read, help them find books in line with their own interests. Series are an especially good place to start, as they help motivate kids to move onto the next book.
Go to the library: Libraries have a huge selection of books for free, and librarians can help kids find books they might enjoy. Children who choose their own books and take them out with their own library cards are more likely to feel ownership over their decision to read. This can be empowering, plus the need to return books pushes kids to return to the library on a regular basis.
Be a positive role model: If you show your kids that downtime = screen time, they’re likely to follow suit. Take out books for yourself at the library, and read them around your children, especially before bedtime. Rather than forcing your kids to read, help them find books they love and see that reading is something that can be done for fun—not just school.