Our lives can easily fill up with, well … life. When everything on our to-do lists feels both urgent and important, pleasure reading can seem a luxury. For many children and teens, as their lives get busier with new obligations and increasing distractions, the idea of curling up with a book can appear to be the stuff of fantasy, something that only kids in stories do. I asked a few experts how they keep busy kids connected to books.

Make time and space for kids to read.

“Give them time to read in class,” says educator and parent Jim Davis, who makes sure that his classroom library is well-stocked, and makes a point of getting to know his students so that he can make relevant recommendations.”

In her middle school classroom, Abrams allocates the first ten minutes of class to independent choice reading — for herself as well as her students. She’s also practical about reading expectations in her own home: “where test prep work has been abundant at school and love of reading often takes a backseat … Sometimes all we can do is one picture book read-aloud.”

Acknowledging that busy children will need support and flexibility can help. “For students with required reading assignments while their schedule is busy, they need to have a schedule for getting their reading completed,” she points out. “Parents can ask them how much time they have to complete the reading and help them with understanding how to manage the time … Reading ‘lights out’ leniency with middle and high school students will help students feel comfortable reading, even if it’s a little late. In fact, encouraging or continuing the bedtime story routine is healthy, definitely more so than screens.”

Educator LaKeisha Love Mason adds that young people who are naturally competitive can use that tendency to boost reading habits. She explains, “Busy students enjoy competition. As an athlete and/or performer they already run on scores, points, and parameters. Keep that competitive energy as your friend by utilizing it to drive them to read independently, regardless of their schedules.”

Use limited time well.

It can help to be realistic about the time you have and make the most of it. High school ELA teacher Gena Brown is also mom to a busy eighth grader and enjoys connecting over literature in their time together. She says, “I read with him. I love our book discussions on the way to school or practice.” Author Katey Howes also multitasks: “At home, we listen to audiobooks and bookish podcasts together while making dinner or doing yard work. My kids read a lot in the car.”

– Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Brightly

Read more: Expert Tips for Keeping Busy Kids Connected to Books

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