20/07/2016 11:40 BST | Updated 20/07/2017 06:12 BST

The One Thing Your Teen should be Doing this Summer

If your teen does only one useful thing this summer let it be this....


It's simple, easy and either free or relatively cheap. But, it's oh, so powerful at improving your life chances.

In my work as an academic coach helping students to get the top exam grades and into the best universities, and previously, when I was working in secondary schools, the biggest obstacle I saw to academic achievement is the ability to understand text and to write clearly.

If young people spent more time reading they would make their life so much easier when they come to studying for their exams.

Let me break down some of the reasons why reading is so powerful:

  • The more you read the better you understand the nuances of what you're reading. This can help you when you're reading a complex text that you need to understand on your university course, or just better interpreting what an exam question actually wants you to put in your answer
  • It makes you into a better writer. The more you're exposed to other people's writing the more you get to experience how others use language, punctuation, paragraphs, voices etc to communicate
  • It gives you knowledge and experience way beyond your immediate surroundings - making you empathetic with people in places and times you would find impossible to access in any other way
  • Reading makes you into a rounded and interesting person. I was even asked what I was reading in my Cambridge interview!
  • It's fun!

So, how do you persuade your teen to read more?

1. Give them ownership of their own reading. By this, let them choose what they read, when they read and how they read. You can help them and guide them with book choices, the best times of day to read and what environment they read in. However, the final choices about all these things should be down to them.

2. Help them to solve reading related problems. If your teen finds it difficult to focus on a book help them to work out what the problem is. Maybe they need a mini-target of reading a single page per day to make it easily manageable and they build up a sense of achievement and accomplishment. Maybe you need to suggest that they leave their phone outside the room while they read so they are undisturbed. Or, they could set a timer on their phone for 10-15 minutes and this is their reading time.

3. Make it social. Maybe your teen could form a book group with their friends so there's a social element to their reading and they can discuss what they've read.

4. Turn it into a bonding activity. Instead of discussing books with friends you and your teen could read the same books and talk about them together.

5. Link it to achieving their hopes and dreams. Talk to your teen about what they want to achieve in the future and explain to them how reading can help them to achieve it.

I firmly believe that we should all be reading more. That's why I'm running The Summer Reading Challenge for the second year running. It's aimed at teens and encourages them to read five books from five categories over the summer months. However, there are no rules. In my book (pun intended) success in The Summer Reading Challenge is reading more than you would have done without taking part. You can find out more and join The Summer Reading Challenge here.

Here's to a summer of enjoyable and adventurous summer reading!

Lucy Parsons empowers 15-18 year olds to get the top grades and into the best universities. Lucy is straight-A student, Cambridge graduate and qualified teacher. She has written two books that help young people to get A-mazing grades. You can find out more about Lucy on her website, lifemoreextraordinary.com.