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Think Summer Reading is Just for Kids? Not at All!

May 14, 2021

Adults Can Have a Blast and Earn Real Benefits by Participating in Our Summer Reading Challenge

The Summer Reading Challenge at Nashville Public Library (NPL) has been a highly-anticipated event for many years now. The annual reading initiative sees people across Nashville engage in reading throughout the summer to earn points for free prizes and track their minutes for bragging rights with other book lovers.

But for many adults (and we’re guessing this might apply to you since you’re reading this), participating in the Challenge may pose a few challenges of its own. Maybe you don’t like reading print books; maybe you don’t have time to set aside for leisurely reading; maybe you perceive the Challenge as a “just for kids” event.

While all those concerns are understandable, we’re here to tell you: whether you like reading print books and have time for leisurely reading, or not, you can absolutely participate in the Summer Reading Challenge, and it's well worth your while to do so.

Here’s how.

Reading Beyond Print

When many people hear “reading,” what most likely comes to mind is sitting somewhere quiet and reading a print book. There’s nothing wrong with that, but reading encompasses so much more.

“What we really want this year is for people to engage in literacy wherever they are and however they choose. Any reading you do contributes to literacy,” said Carlos Shivers, Branch Manager at the Edgehill Branch Library, and a member of the Summer Reading Challenge Committee.

To put that in context, consider these examples. The time you spend going through email at work? That’s reading. Following a recipe while you prepare dinner? That’s reading. Reading a blog post for professional development or to catch up on the news? Yep, those count, too.

That extends to reading in formats other than the printed word. For foreign film buffs or the hard of hearing, reading the subtitles in a movie or TV show counts. So does listening to your favorite podcast. And, most definitely, listening to audiobooks counts as reading.

The main thing to recognize is that all of these activities are things many of us do every day. They don’t require you to go out of your way, and many don’t require that you ever set foot in a bookstore or even an NPL location. They’re all things you can do at home, at work, in the car, or anywhere else you find yourself.

The Summer Reading Challenge is just an excuse to reward yourself for doing what you do every day.

Give Your Brain a Workout

For kids, the benefits of reading are easily discernible. A better vocabulary, better writing and communication skills, and better performance in school all stand out as examples.

But what about adults? You’ve probably heard, at least once in your life, something to the effect of “if you don’t start young you won’t get the most out of it.” Does that apply to reading, as well?

The answer is: absolutely not, and we’ve got the science to prove it.

As reported by Healthline, researchers have documented many cases where reading provides marked benefits to the reader, no matter their age. Some of the findings included:

  • Increased brain activity, especially in the somatosensory cortex, which responds to physical sensations such as movement and pain.
  • Increased empathy through identification with characters in stories.
  • Improved vocabulary and communication skills, which 69% percent of surveyed employers said they value when considering job candidates.
  • Reduced stress, even compared to yoga or bouts of humor.
  • Reduced symptoms from age-related cognitive decline, such as dementia.

But don’t think that the benefits of reading only pertain to typed or printed words.

“Some people have this stigma that audiobooks and other audio-based literature ‘don’t really count as reading.’ That couldn’t be further from the truth! Audiobooks definitely count as reading, and they share many of the same benefits as reading print books,” said Cassie Welch, a Children’s Librarian at the Edmondson Pike Branch Library, and the Coordinator for the Summer Reading Challenge.

In fact, as reported in Time magazine, studies have shown that the developmental gains between traditional reading and audio-based literature are marginal, at most. This is doubly true when reading for leisure.

So, prefer listening to an audiobook while you’re driving for your summer vacation? Don’t feel guilty and log those minutes!

A Chance to Up Your Reading Game

Even if you’re already a devoted reader, and a regular Summer Reading Challenge participant, we encourage you to make this year’s Challenge a way to expand what and how you’re reading.

“Summer Reading Challenge is a great time for adults to set their own reading goals. We ask you to read for at least 600 minutes throughout the summer, which is a great way to start a reading routine,” said Lauren Gilpin, a Librarian at the Bellevue Branch Library, who sits on the Summer Reading Challenge Committee. “For those who read regularly, I encourage adults to set a goal, such as to read more books by Black authors, or Asian and Pacific authors for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in May, or LGBTQ authors in June for Pride Month.”

Beyond different authors, you could use the challenge to try out different “flavors” of reading. 

If you’re a print person, give an audiobook or eBook a try. If you normally read mysteries or thrillers, consider a fantasy or sci-fi title. If you’re big into fiction, try reading through a non-fiction title for a change. Never thought about reading graphic novels? Give ‘em a shot.

There are numerous ways to approach the Challenge, but the end goal is this: when we explore new things and push our boundaries, human beings achieve clearer awareness of the world around them, greater empathy for others, and a deeper understanding of themselves.

What better way is there to make those discoveries than by accomplishing your reading goals during the Summer Reading Challenge?

Begin Your Challenge Today

Thank you for taking the time to read this post, and we hope that it’s got you excited about participating in the Summer Reading Challenge!

If you’re ready to challenge yourself (pun intended), the next steps are simple. Visit our Summer Reading Challenge website. From there, either register and start logging your minutes online, or print out a paper reading log to record your time. Once you hit 600 minutes, come into any of our in-person service locations to receive a free phone charger for iPhone and Android models, while supplies last.

And please – don’t feel pressured to log your minutes as soon as you’re finished reading. You can log minutes as you go, at the end of the week or month, or anytime before the Challenge ends on August 21, whatever is most convenient for you.

And if you're getting a late start this year, don’t worry. Any minutes you’ve read since the start of the Challenge on May 3 still count. 

Oh, by the way … go ahead and give yourself points for reading through this post. You’ve earned them!

Wizard avatar


Ed's a proud member of NPL's Marketing and Communications team. Some of his favorite books include Dracula, Once an EagleNeuromancerStarship TroopersThe Black CompanyBerserkBlade of the ImmortalBlame! and Vampire Hunter D. When not at the Library, you'll find him spending time with his wife and son, doing interval training, reading, or waiting for the next FromSoftware game.


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