How Summer Reading Boosts Youth Mental Health

A group of children read outside in the grass.

Childhood has always been a challenging journey, but it’s especially so for today’s kids. While measures of anxiety and depression in youth have been climbing for years, the last few years have tipped the scales by upending routines, isolating kids from peers, and cutting many children off from the safe spaces they could escape to from troubled homes.

For generations, libraries have served as safe and nurturing havens for kids in the summer. Library summer reading programs also keep kids on track to succeed in school by preventing the “summer slide” —the loss of critical reading skills gained over the previous school year.

And now, those same libraries and summer reading programs are credited with another benefit: helping improve childhood mental health. According to a study by the UK’s National Literacy Trust, kids who engage in reading and writing in their free time have significantly better mental well-being.

Here are just a few ways reading is good for kids’ mental health:

  • Books help kids unplug from unhealthy technology and escape from daily pressures.
  • Reading broadens vocabulary, enabling kids to better articulate their feelings.
  • Stories with relatable characters and dilemmas help children feel less alone and provide guidance to navigate struggles.
  • Reading and writing develop emotional literacy skills, such as understanding one’s own emotions and having empathy for others, that can help children confront life’s challenges in healthier ways.

“Not only does a love of reading and writing enable children to flourish at school, but we now also know it can play a vital role in supporting children to lead happy and healthy lives.”

Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust (UK)

In late 2021, the Surgeon General released a special advisory on the youth mental health crisis that detailed ways to address the issue. One of the key actions educational institutions can take? Expand social and emotional learning programs and other evidence-based approaches that promote healthy development.

This year, the Bozeman Public Library’s Summer Reading program has become the Summer Learning Program. While it’s still devoted to giving kids ready access to books and reading resources, the shift recognizes the importance of math, science, and —crucial to these challenging times —social and emotional
learning skills.

2022 Summer Learning highlights include:

  • Family Pirate Party Summer Kick-off celebration. In honor of this year’s theme, Oceans of Possibilities, kids can construct an enormous pirate ship, dig for buried doubloons, and design their own seafaring vessels. June 13, 11 am-3 pm.
  • Meet a Maritime Archaeologist. Kids will discover what it’s like to explore shipwrecks—and get a sense of the world of possibilities available to them in their careers. July 6, 12:30 pm.
  • Aerial Acrobats. Families can marvel as aerial artists fly and dance high in the sky during an interactive performance from Aerial Arts of Bozeman. July 27, 12:30 pm.
  • Free Summer Lunch. Because healthy minds need nourished bodies, the Library partners with HRDC to offer high-quality, free lunches to kids 18 and younger throughout the summer break. Mondays – Fridays except holidays.
  • Bookmobile story times. New in 2022, the donor-supported Bookmobile will offer children’s storytimes in addition to regular services as they visit neighborhoods across Gallatin Valley. Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.
  • Read with a Dog. Overcoming reading challenges provides a huge confidence boost in children. A partnership with Intermountain Therapy Dogs enables kids to read to a friendly, non-judgmental canine companion each week. Wednesdays.

The Summer Learning program is made possible by our active community of supporters who believe in the Bozeman Library and the public good that it serves. Thank you!

Know a family with youngsters who might enjoy the Library’s summer programs? You can spread the word by sharing the printable summer calendar or online event calendar

A graphic reads, "Eighty-three-percent of educators say reading helps students understand people that are different than them, 81% say reading helps students develop empathy, and 81% say reading helps students see themselves in characters and stories. Source: Scholastic Teacher and Principal Report. "