Why Reading is More Important for Kids than Playing Sports

Kid Reading with Mom

Parents, grandparents, teachers, youth leaders, coaches, adults, everyone… listen up. We should want kids reading more than playing sports.

I’m not against sports. They’re great! They help kids stay healthy by being active, teach teamwork and self-discipline, inspire confidence, and a myriad of other great things. I played sports throughout all of middle and high school. I enjoyed the experience for the most part. This is not an argument for kids not to play sports. It is simply an argument that reading is far more important, and far more overlooked.

Sports reign in my hometown. We often treat academic and musical accomplishments as the interruptions to the kids’ high school sporting careers. But gyms are filled, parades take place, and signs go up on at the edge of town to commemorate the great athletic achievements. I fully support celebrating these victories. My issue is we don’t do the same for the kids who excel in school or other extracurricular activities.

We reinforce to these kids that sports are the best path to success. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Most kids will not make a career out of that sport they love. And that’s okay because the world desperately needs more doctors, social workers, electricians, teachers, police officers, accountants and more. The options are endless to fit any child’s passions and talents. (Even if they do become pro-athletes there are other life-long benefits to reading they should have in their lives.)

So why should kids read more? Here are 6 reasons!

1) Reading Leads to Academic Achievement

We want kids to succeed. Whether they go to college, a trade or technical school, or straight into the workforce, doing well in school sets them up for success. There’s a reason our country guarantees access to public education. There’s a reason it is mandatory to attend some type of school as a child. Education means an opportunity for a good life. It means you really can pursue happiness if you choose.

The best way to take advantage of free education is to do well in school. Reading—specifically at home which means not forced by teachers in school—has been linked to academic achievement. Help give every kid you know a better chance at a stable and healthy life by getting them to read more!

2) Reading Reduces Stress

I see so many kids these days (yes, I’m now a part of the old person club for saying that) super stressed out. They don’t know how to deal with stress and often have more than any of us did while growing up. Physical activity is one reliever of stress. Reading is another.

In fact, reading is the better and fastest way to relieve stress. Seriously. See a kid in your class, church, or home stressed? Give them a book. Six minutes in and they’re heart rate will be down and mind in more relaxed state. Talk about a miracle drug right there.

3) Reading Improves Memory

We’re not going for a Sherlock Holmes mind palace here. We’re going for an increased memory that helps in your job and relationships. Reading does that and more. It also prevents dementia and Alzheimer’s. Those are devastating diseases I wouldn’t wish on anyone. The catch is it has to start early for these benefits to occur. We’re talking four to five early. Help the younger kids in your life get hooked on reading to protect their memory for a lifetime.

4) Reading is Entertaining!

I remember reading the 6th Harry Potter book and throwing it across the room in rage because Dumbledore died. I refused to touch it for about 10 minutes before I gave into the suspense of “what happens now?” Recently, a novel broke my heart and had me crying for a chapter straight.

Books can pull us in and touch our hearts in a way TV and movies struggle to do. It’s the difference between being a passive observer and being in the head of these characters you love. Kids can be entertained by books just as much as, if not more than, television and movies.

5) Reading Increases Attention Span

Did you check Facebook or text already before reaching the end of the post? Do you think it’s too long to finish? Welcome to our shortened attention spans, courtesy of the internet. The best way to combat this newest attack on our focus is literally reading. Go forth and help the kids focus… or something like that.

6) Reading Improves Empathy

Are you as sick of this divisive nation as I am? I strongly believe many of our issues wouldn’t exist if we were all more empathetic. This means that someone can put themselves in the shoes of another to really understand where they are coming from. Sure, you may not always agree. But you will see them as a valuable human being with a valid point. You want the kids in your life to not be a bully, or help those who need it regardless of any differences? That’s empathy at work. We all could use more of it.

The New School for Social Research in New York proved that reading literature improves empathy. It makes sense. Reading forces you to experience a character’s story. Often that story is different from your own. This teaches us how to understand others, to care for them, and be invested in their success. Imagine learning this type of lesson over and over from a young age. Children are the future. If we want that future to be full of empathy and compassion, let’s get the kids in our lives reading.

Read More Books

Teaching the kids around us, either our own or those in our families and communities, to read is critical. It is hard to convince them it’s fun though if you aren’t doing it yourself. Anyone can read. I know some people say they don’t like it. I think they just haven’t found what they’ll enjoy yet.

Not everyone likes the same TV shows or movies, yet almost everyone watches them. The same applies to books. Most people just got stuck reading books only assigned in school and never found their favorites. There are other ways to experience the benefits of reading without reading a book too. I have a few friends who mostly listen to audio books. They can’t stand reading and often struggle to follow along. But they tear through those audio books on their commutes or while running!

Not into novels? Try a fun short story. Don’t like Charles Dickens? Same. Read a Jodi Picoult book. Feel like you never got past a younger reading level? That’s okay. Read what you can understand and enjoy it. We all start somewhere. I actually struggled to read as a kid. I learned late and was in the special reading class in school for a few years. Guess what helped me get better at that and in school? Reading more. I’m always here to help with suggestions too.

Humans love stories. We love to tell them and we love to be told them. Find a story that captures you or your kid and you might be surprised. Read to your kids, buy them books, borrow from the library, lend them out to your neighborhood kids. I’ve lost many books over the years but will never stop letting people, especially youth, borrow books.

At the end of the day, I’m proud my tiny hometown without even a grocery has a public library. It may be small, but it’s impact is fierce. Let’s help each other, our communities, and country’s future by getting kids to read more.

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