Reading Benefits for Kids and Teens

With so many digital distractions available for kids and teens these days, it can be tough to convince them to sit down with a good book. But the rewards of curling up with an old-fashioned page-turner might help you talk even the most stubborn children into sitting down with Dr. Seuss or J.K Rowling. 

Books and Brain Health

The benefits of reading for kids and teens start in the brain as early as infancy, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In a study they conducted in 2014, it was discovered that “reading exerts a positive effect on the developing brain” of children – even for those little ones who can’t read yet. 

Not only do kids who are read to regularly when they’re little develop stronger relationships with their parents, they also begin learning valuable language and literacy skills earlier on in their development. Research also suggests that children who are read to when they’re small do better in school when they get older because they’re equipped with stronger comprehension and vocabulary skills.

Pleasure-reading on their own benefits older kids and teenagers, too. It helps them develop stronger social skills, vocabulary and writing skills, and helps them to better understand and process more complex ideas. Reading also expands their ability to build knowledge overall – not just in subjects like English and language arts.

Another bonus? Teens who read for fun are also better able to clarify their career goals and understand the consequences of risky behavior.

More Big Benefits of Books

Reading books does more than make your kids smarter, though. It can also make them kinder, more empathic people.

Reading and Empathy

According to published research, kids and teens who read fiction, as opposed to non-fiction or nothing at all, are better able to understand their own emotions and the emotions of others – a trait known as empathy.

As studies out of Emory University in Atlanta show, fiction helps to trick our brain into thinking we’re a part of the story – meaning kids are able to feel sympathy for the characters, which can extend to how they interact with real people in their own lives. They begin to develop better “feeling words” words, and are better able to relate to their friends and peers. 

In other words, books can teach children valuable lessons about considering other people’s feelings, seeing things from a different perspective and being kind and understanding to those who look different than they do. 

Tips for Encouraging Children to Read

Despite all this, it can still be a struggle to get your children to pick up a book instead of a video game controller. But these tips can help encourage kids and teens to reach for the J.K Rowling rather than the TV remote.

  • Create a reading culture at home. Make books easily available throughout the house; read to small children regularly; let your kids see you reading for fun; talk about the books you’re reading over dinner. Some parents also have success hosting book clubs at home for older kids and teens, with snacks, games and discussion around a shared book.
  • Don’t be picky about what your kids choose to read, as long as it’s age-appropriate. Whether it’s a novel, a comic book, a magazine or an e-book on a tablet – letting your child choose something she finds interesting or engaging makes reading feel less like a chore or assignment and more like fun.
  • Make an event out of trips to the library. Just like you would a birthday party or the playground, help your child learn to associate going to the library with fun and play. Bring snacks; try out story times at different locations; let her roam up and down the aisles; help her sign up for her very own library card.
  • For older kids and teens, connect reading to your teen’s tech-savvy. You can do this by encouraging your child to blog about what she’s reading. You can also help her find age-appropriate online reading groups and book clubs that she can participate in. If she’s not interested in lugging around another book in her backpack, show her how to download books on a tablet or e-reader. Introduce her to books that are related to some of her favorite movies. 

Book Recommendations for Kids and Teens

You can also kick-start your kids’ reading habit with some of these fun titles. 

Book recommendations for kids and teens

You can also kick-start your kids’ reading habit with some of these fun titles.

Babies and Toddlers (0-3 years)

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  • Jane Foster’s Black and White
  • The Like This Series by Mary Murphy
  • Global Babies by The Global Fund for Children

Preschoolers (4-6 years)

  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett
  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
  • If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff
  • The Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena
  • Fox in Socks by Dr. Suess
  • Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

Big Kids (7-12 years)

  • The BFG by Roald Dahl
  • Holes by Louise Sachar
  • The Ramona series by Beverly Cleary
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
  • Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Teens (13 and up)

  • The Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling
  • An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
  • Stargirl Jerry Spinelli
  • The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger
This content is general information and is not specific medical advice. Always consult with a doctor or healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about the health of a child. In case of an urgent concern or emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department right away. Some physicians and affiliated healthcare professionals on Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta team are independent providers and are not our employees.