From the time students learn to read, their teachers' fondest hope is that they become competent, joyful "lifelong readers." The reasons behind all those independent reading journals and book clubs may surprise you, though - it's not really about the books themselves, but what reading does for developing brains.
How Recreational Reading Builds the Brain
Studies of lifelong readers have shown that people who read more have better working memories throughout their lives. The brain-enhancing results come not just from scholastic study sessions, but from a sustained engagement with books on a nearly daily basis.
In the near-term, recreational reading is important for students because it has a major impact on their grades and test scores - two of the biggest factors in the college admissions process. While reading the textbook for coursework is important, recreational reading allows you to pursue your interests and make deeper connections and associations with your curricular learning. Independent reading is also the single most effective way to build a strong vocabulary and reading comprehension skills - things are tested directly on college admissions exams like the SAT Reasoning Test™ and ACT®.
Recreational reading can also create a positive feedback loop for learners. The more you read, the more capable and confident you'll become. In turn, that confidence leads you to enjoy reading more - and the more you continue to read, the greater the impact on your learning, grades, and test scores.
How to Start Reading for Recreation
Try these ideas to include more independent reading during your free time:
- Pick Up a Book: All reading is helpful, so don't restrict yourself to a certain type of book. Fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels: Choose something you'll enjoy! If you end up not liking a book after the first few chapters, there's no rule that says you have to finish it.
- Test for Reading Level: Before you check out a book from the library, scan a random page. If you have trouble defining more than three words, or if you can't follow the author's syntax, put it down and choose something that won't end up frustrating you.
- Make It a Habit: The biggest benefits of recreational reading come to those who do it daily, so set aside 15 minutes every day to do a little reading. Each week, consider adding another five minutes to your goal. As you build stamina, you'll likely find yourself craving your reading sessions!
- Try New Things: To keep things interesting, be sure to try different topics and genres of writing when you choose new books. Lexile is a good resource for finding books at the right reading level across a wide range of subjects and styles.
As you begin your recreational reading, be kind to yourself. It's meant to be enjoyable, and it may take a few books before you hit on something that you really like. Just keep trying, and you're sure to reap the benefits of being a strong, capable reader in no time.