26 December, 2023

The unexpected joys of holiday reading

Reading at Compass

The unexpected joys of holiday reading - The unexpected joys of holiday reading


After a long and demanding school term, it’s understandable for children to yearn for a break from the rigours of academic life. Their minds crave the allure of video games, television shows, and the freedom to indulge in various recreational activities. It is no wonder that “reading books” over the holidays may not be high on their list of priorities. However, the immense benefits that lie in keeping the reading habit alive, even during the holidays are innumerable.

Don’t just take my word for it. Research conducted by leading universities have consistently shown the positive impact of reading on children's cognitive development. The University of California, Berkeley, revealed that reading fiction enhances empathy and social understanding in children. The researchers found that engaging with literary narratives helps children better grasp the complexities of human emotions and relationships, ultimately fostering empathy and compassion within them. As the renowned psychologist Dr. Keith Oatley remarked, "Fiction is a kind of simulation of the social world, and children who read a lot of fiction seem to be better at understanding other people's emotions."

It’s no surprise that reading during the holidays can significantly improve children's academic performance, but the amount of academic improvement always shocks people I speak with.  A University of Oxford study found that students who read regularly over the summer break experienced less learning loss compared to their peers who abstained from reading. This phenomenon, known in the Education world as the "summer slide," occurs when students' academic skills and knowledge regress due to long periods of inactivity. By reading, children can not only prevent the summer slide but also gain that competitive edge when they return to school.

To help you with encouraging your children to embrace reading during the holidays, here are some tried and tested tips, for all ages, that I’ve found useful within my library:

1. Don't force books: Instead of imposing specific titles, try strategically placing books that align with your child's interests in visible locations, such as the living room or their bedroom. This subtle approach can pique their curiosity and entice them to explore the books.

2. Start a journal together: Begin a shared journal where you and your child can document the books you've read. Encourage them to write about their favorite moments, interesting characters, or even funny anecdotes. This interactive approach not only promotes reading but also strengthens the parent-child bond through shared experiences.

3. Be a reading role model: Children often look to their parents as examples. Make it a habit to read books yourself, and let your child observe your enthusiasm for reading. Your actions will convey the message that reading is a pleasurable and valuable activity.

4. Turn book shopping into an adventure: Transform a trip to the bookstore or library into an exciting adventure for your child. Involve them in the process of selecting books, allowing them to explore different genres and authors. By making book shopping an enjoyable experience, you can foster a positive association with reading.

Students in our school have offered to share their thoughts  on reading over the holidays. The responses were insightful and I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to share them with you: 
- "Yes, I read books on holidays. I believe it is good to read books in general, whether in the holidays or not. When reading, your mind is less distracted by external stimuli and your brain becomes more active because you try to derive meaning in the text you read. This strengthens the mind and its thinking powers, at least that’s what I think or believe. " Khalaf, Year 10
- “It’s important to read books during the holidays to have a higher level of vocabulary. Reading helps you understand different context and different ways of speaking, increases your English level, and experience things from other people’s perspective. Reading can also inspire you to try new things and discover new places. " Malek, Year 7
- "I am taking my book to the trip. Reading makes my brain stronger and you learn words, that can help you throughout life." Aurora, Year 3
It is vital for our children to continue reading books over the holidays. Not only does it enhance their cognitive development and academic performance, but it also provides a source of joy, imagination, and relaxation. By incorporating reading into their holiday routine, parents can help instill a lifelong love for literature in their children and equip them with invaluable skills for their future endeavours.


As a famous academic once said:
The unexpected joys of holiday reading