by Janelle Hagen, Middle School library department head, and Carly Pansulla, Upper School librarian
With school breaks on the horizon, now is the perfect time for parents and guardians to think about how to encourage their busy Lakeside students to read for fun. We know that reading books for pleasure is a way to build empathy and to understand the world around us. Encouraging students to make time to read – especially during extended time away from school and homework – is a great way to build habits of lifelong learning that will serve them well in a complex world that requires constant growth and evolution.
Middle school and high school students have slightly different needs for pleasure reading. But regardless of age, students are most likely to enjoy a book they have chosen. Allowing your student to choose their pleasure reading fosters a sense of autonomy and enthusiasm and connects those positive feelings to reading. Reading for fun also helps strengthen vocabularies, reading comprehension, grammar mastery, and elevates a student's own writing. Check out the age-specific tips below to help your student stay in love with reading.
Tips for Middle School readers from Janelle Hagen:
- If your student is bored or struggling with the book they are reading, they should stop. My general rule of thumb is that if I don't enjoy the book I am reading for pleasure within the first 30 pages, I will put it down. Sometimes I may even skip ahead just to see if it does eventually pique my interest – there are no rules!
- Read as a family. Modelling reading is one of the most important things parents and guardians can do at home. If you are not taking time to read, it can be a struggle to convince your middle schooler that this is something they should do. Because we do so many things on our digital devices, modeling reading is clearest in print, because kids know there's no chance we're checking email or using other functions of the device. Try setting up a time at home where the whole family reads or listens to an audio book together. If there are younger siblings in the family, have your middle schooler read out loud to them.
- Encourage students to think about the next book they want to read. Our Middle School library website includes tools like Destiny Discover and reviews by peers to help students pick the next book that interests them. Other tools like Goodreads or the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) Book finder are excellent ways to find your next book. And Lakeside librarians are always happy to help match readers to books they'll love!
Tips for Upper School readers from Carly Pansulla:
- All formats and reading levels are good choices for pleasure reading for high school students. Re-reading favorites from previous years, binge-reading "easy" series books, listening to audiobooks, and stocking up on comics are all excellent reading practices. The best reading is reading your student truly enjoys, so there's no wrong choice when you're reading for fun!
- Try to read for 30-40 minutes, uninterrupted. Upper School students do a lot of task-switching during the day, but your brain needs time to settle into a rhythm where reading feels easy and fluid, rather than cumbersome. Encourage your student to let themselves get lost in a book by putting distractions away.
- Have books ready and on hand when free time is on the horizon. Plenty of things competing for students' precious time and attention are available instantly with an internet-connected device. Make diving into a book just as accessible by encouraging your student to visit the library and stock up before school breaks. A stack of books to look forward to can be a great motivator!
Check out this story from Lakeside magazine to see what books students recommend, and get inspired by a mid-November blog sharing some of the most-borrowed books at the Upper School library this quarter! And remember that all of the Lakeside librarians are eager to help your student find something they'll absolutely love to read. We wish everyone many happy hours of reading this season.
You can reach Janelle Hagen, department head for the Middle School library and digital and information literacy, at 206-440-2771. Carly Pansulla is a librarian at the Upper School; she can be reached at 206-440-2919.