The Benefits of Reading
It’s commonly known among teachers that students who read more or who are read to at home are more successful at school and write more successfully than their non-reading peers. This probably should not surprise us as, of course, not being able to read at grade level would make studying any subject more difficult. Furthermore, reading extensively can help students gain a larger vocabulary and become more comfortable with more complex syntaxes. It can also provide students with models for their own writing and provide them with evidence to support their own arguments when they write. And, of course, we are now exploring the possibility that reading literary fiction can make a person more empathetic, and help socialize children.
The Depressing Statistics
However, despite the widely-known benefits of reading, all of us know plenty of individuals who do not read and do not like to read. In 2014, Common Sense Media reviewed research on children and teen reading and the results indicate that inviduals seem to read less as they age. For instance the results show that in 2012 53% of nine-year-olds reported reading every day, but only 19% of 17-year-olds reported reading every day.
It seems many adults do not read for pleasure, either. The Pew Research Center reports that a survey conducted from March to April 2015 shows that 72% of adults read at least one book–or part of one book–in the past year. That means 28% of adults did not read a single book in that timeframe. In 2016, the Pew Research survey indicated that 26% of adults had not read a book in the past year.
Considering all the benefits reading can have, are we doing students a disservice by losing them as readers? What happens when a student arrives in college and, upon asked what their favorite book is, admits they have not read a book in at least two years? The last time because they were forced to for class. Is that student reaching their full potential? How might that student’s success change if they read more? What should we be doing to encourage more reading?
Some Ways to Encourage a Love of Reading
- Read to children at home. Guiding children through a story by asking them what they think will happen next or why something happened is a great way to get them engaged and thinking about what they read.
- When possible, provide children with access to books at home. Or donate books to charities who provide them to children in need.
- Take children to the library. It’s all right if at first they spend a lot of time playing and need to be guided into doing some reading. They’re still going to build positive associations with the library.
- Model good reading habits. Share your enthusiasm with others by talking to them about the books you are reading.
- Encourage reading when you see it. Even if you think someone is too old for certain material, that a boy should not be reading a “girl book,” or that someone should be reading “real” material and not reading graphic novels or audiobooks, do not discourage their efforts. You want to build positive associations with reading, not make them feel self-conscious and bad about it.
- Encourage friends and students to join a book club or a reading program. Being around others who find reading fun or even just earning prizes for pages read might help reluctant readers see reading as fun, too.
- Work with someone’s love of movies. If you know an individual who really loves The Hobbit film, for example, you might provide them with a copy of the book for comparison.
- Never shame an individual for not reading. You don’t want people to associate reading with negativity, like they have to do it so you stop nagging them.
- Provide choices. People are generally more enthusiastic about doing something if they have more control over it, kind of like writing an essay about something they’re interested in rather than writing on an assigned topic.
- Inform students why reading is relevant to them. Students tend to be more invested when they think something will be useful to them. Let your students know that, yes, reading and writing are connected and are important for any field. Even STEM professionals have to read and write!
- Bring in some professionals to talk about what they do. Students may not believe you when you talk about the work a chemical engineer does. But if you can show them a real-life chemical engineer who can talk about their work, now they have a model.
- Find mentors. Students are often not quite sure what is expected from them in class or for the future. Having a mentor who can guild them through school, the college selection process etc. can be immensely valuable as they’ll know what they need to achieve to get where they want to be.
Do you have suggestions about how to encourage students to read for fun?