Young people who enjoy reading are five times as likely to read above the expected level compared with young people who do not enjoy reading at all. I found this particularly interesting because there are increasing stories in the media reporting there is a decline in reading frequency. As teachers, there is a growing concern
that children are not reading enough, and parents are not reading to their children. But why does this matter?
There is substantial evidence linking reading for pleasure and educational outcomes; research repeatedly proves this. As a teacher, I always tell parents that one of the key things they can do at home to help their child achieve is to read, read, read! Reading has been shown to increase vocabulary, attainment, scores on academic tests, math, grammar…the list goes on. Essentially, reading is fundamental to learning and growth. This year I have focused the development of my own teaching in reading strategies.
But, in a world dominated by technology and social media, why is reading books so important? A few years ago I remember reading articles that suggested books would eventually be obsolete. However, it is clear that with technological advances, reading is even more critical. According to Eric Schmidt of Google, every two days there is more information created on the web as we did from the dawn of civilization until 2003. This means that words and literacy are more important than ever. We navigate the world with words, we need to communicate and most importantly, comprehend what we are reading on the web. People who cannot
communicate, cannot exchange ideas. Adolescents will need to read and write more than other time in history. They will need advanced levels of literacy to cope with the flood of information that will face them at every corner. The simplest way to ensure we raise literate children is to teach them to read and feed their imaginations.
Technology and internet usage has numerous advantages, however, extensive online engagement has also shown to have negative consequences, such as poor social skills, a need for instant gratification, addictive behaviors and emotional psychological distress such as depression, lack of empathy and anxiety. To combat this, there is a growing body of evidence to show that the benefits of reading for pleasure is far reaching. It increases sense of achievement, confidence, self-esteem, promotes empathy, positive relationships and inclusion. It is clear, reading is not something children should just do in school; it needs to be an everyday part of our lives. It is vital we show children that reading is a pleasurable activity.
It was found that with just 30 minutes of reading a week, two thirds of readers reported a reduction in stress, a stronger engagement with social issues and a higher level of self-esteem and self-acceptance. Yet, the most common reason for giving up on books was lack of time. Perhaps, this is because people see reading as an indulgence. It may be this idea that we need to change in our children. Reading is a necessity in our lives.
While researching for this article, I discovered that the building of private prisons in America for future growth is being predicated on a simple algorithm: based on asking what percentage of 10 and 11-year-olds couldn’t read. Furthermore, in 2007, Chinese delegates were sent to work with corporations that were changing
the future, such as Google, Apple and Microsoft. A common thread was found amongst the inventors of the future—they all read science-fiction when they were younger. Therefore, it is evident that those changing our world are those that read for pleasure when they were younger. They opened their imaginations and created new worlds, and envisioned a new future. Fiction can show you a different world; a different way of life.
Reading is fundamental, it really is that simple. It changes our outlook on life and how we communicate with others. Not just in children, but in adults too. It is apparent that reading for pleasure is vital and impacts our future prospects. We can start by asking ourselves these questions: How often does my child read? How often do I read to my children? How often do I read?