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Carly Shuler is the co-founder and CEO of Hoot Reading.

Cottages. Overnight camp. Late bedtimes. As fun as summer can be, it inevitably wreaks havoc on your family’s schedule. Not to mention that an extended break can be detrimental to a child’s educational progress. Research has long shown the existence of the “summer reading slide,” a phenomenon whereby most children regress over the break. As September progresses, parents and children across Canada are settling into a new routine, which for many will also mean cracking down on screen time after a few lax months of daytime reruns and road trips.

But when it comes to reading, is screen time such a bad thing? I think not. According to Statistics Canada, “literacy skill level and household income are positively related.” Evidence shows that higher literacy skills are linked to greater levels of employment and higher incomes. Moreover, raising literacy rates seems to be the most effective way to decrease poverty. Therefore, focusing on improving your child’s reading skills is arguably the best way to prepare them for a successful future. When parents consider limits around screen time, it is important to consider not only the amount of time our children are using screens, but how they are using them, and how they can help improve your child’s literacy skills, and thus play a part in setting them up for career success down the road.

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New research is showing that life success, both academically and afterwards, is not only tied to reading ability, but to being a “deep” reader. The deep reader, according to Maryanne Wolf, “can process both the speed of the digital reading environment and still benefit from and appreciate the effects of deep reading.” Those effects include increased independence, empathy and self-confidence. Children need to not only read, but to read deeply in order to think critically, appreciate alternative viewpoints and create opinions on the world around them.

For all of the contention surrounding children and screen time, it seems rather futile to attempt to control it – after all, screens aren’t going anywhere. What if rather than fighting to get kids off of their screens, we found a way for them to enjoy screen time while simultaneously fostering a love and aptitude for reading? What if we could use our child’s screen obsession to set them up for the economic benefits that go along with having a successful career? Here are some tips on how to make the most of your child’s time in front of a screen to help improve their reading skills and future job prospects:

  • Allow kids to read e-books: For some children, the mere fact that a book is on an electronic device makes it more fun and interesting. And fortunately for parents, there are plenty of kid-friendly reading apps to get kids on the reading bandwagon. The blend of technology and literature can help develop a child’s love of reading.
  • Choose games and apps that require a lot of reading: Reading is the foundation for all learning, so try to seek out apps that are reading heavy. As kids get older, comprehending written instruction becomes important, and games can be a great opportunity for them to practise this skill. Choose apps that give children a chance to try to work out next steps and give parents the chance to offer encouragement. These games are fun, but also require children to read in order to know what to do; they help nurture comprehension and the ability to follow written directions.
  • Read yourself: A great way to encourage kids to read is to read yourself. Pick up a book and show them that reading is a fun and relaxing pastime. If you read on a digital device, let them know that you are actually reading, not just playing Candy Crush. You may even talk to them about what you’re reading to show them how engaging books can be. Being a reading role model will encourage them to do the same.

Screens have become ubiquitous in our modern world, and while they may introduce new parenting challenges, they can also be amazing tools to help children learn, as long as they are used thoughtfully and carefully. When used wisely, screen time can be a significant contributing factor to a child’s future success.

This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab.

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