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Reading Matters

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The more you read, the better you read.  The better you read, the more you enjoy it.  The more you enjoy it, the more you want to read. (Bernice Cullinan)
It makes sense.  Whatever you do, you get better with practice.  Tennis players and musicians and bridge players and writers and readers all need to stay in trim;  they get better by practising regularly.  Good readers, says Spink, are always in the process of becoming better readers.

And if it makes sense, then beware the reverse.  Trelease is aware.  "Reading is, among other things, a skill, and like all skills, the more you use it the better you become at it.  Conversely, the less reading you do, the more difficult it is."

It's not just sense, either.  The sentiment is backed by the research.  Study after study shows that those who read, read more.  Those who are given time to read in school will also read outside school.  Those who read outside school go on reading.

There's a catch: we're not talking about textbooks and class readers here.  We are talking, the research is talking, free voluntary reading (FVR).  The reader needs to make his own choice of book and be given time to read it and to enjoy it.  Schools with FVR programmes often have a daily 5 to 25 minutes set aside when everyone, children, teachers, secretaries, headteachers, janitors, everyone reads.

Is it important for children to read?  Yes, yes, yes.

The research shows that readers become readers by reading.  It shows that reading assists in language development.  It shows that readers learn better and learn faster than non-readers and poor readers.   Readers read because they enjoy reading.  Reading is fun, it is a lifetime's passport to pleasure and interest and learning.

Krashen's survey of reading research shows that FVR results in better reading comprehension, writing style, vocabulary, spelling, grammatical development.  FVR makes for favourable attitudes towards reading.  FVR readers read more.  Krashen affirms, "Reading as a leisure activity is the best predictor of comprehension, vocabulary, and reading speed."

What is more, "Those who read in a second language write and spell better in that language."   You learn your own language better by reading in your own language.  You learn a second (or third or fourth or...) language better by reading in that language.

Krashen believes, "Although free voluntary reading alone will not ensure attainment of the highest levels of literacy, it will at least ensure an acceptable level.  Without it, I suspect that children simply do not have a chance."

The research also shows the other side of the coin: children who do not read are disadvantaged in terms of reading comprehension, writing style, vocabulary, spelling, grammatical development, and all those other reading and learning skills.

The research shows too that many children actually spend very little of their time in school reading, and far less in free, voluntary reading.  It's important for schools to make time - and books - available.  It's also important that parents play their part at home as well.  Parents have an important role in the early, pre-reading stages.  They have an important role when the child is learning to read.  The importance of the parental role continues, even after the child has learned to read.

For it's none too simple.  You cannot simply tell children to read because it's good for them.  They have to want to read.  The four elements which go towards making a lifelong reader are inter-related.  We can use them and we must use them.  All of them:

We looked at the first of these in the last newsletter.  It is clear those who have been exposed to books and who have been read aloud to from infancy have an advantage here: they are more likely to enjoy books already.  LIFELONG READING ELEMENT #1: READING ALOUD will be working its magic.

Next time, we'll look at what the research says about US, parents and teachers, and OUR ROLE AS ROLE-MODELS.

The views expressed here are my own.
They are not neccessarily the views of the school, nor of individual teachers within the school.

Sources not noted in earlier articles include:

Bullock, Alan.  A language for life : report of the Committee of Inquiry.  HMSO, 1975.

Gawith, Gwen.  Reading alive!  A&C Black, 1990.

Goodlad, John.  A place called school.  McGraw-Hill, 1984.

Gorman, Tom.  Pupils' attitudes to reading at age 11 and 15.  London.   Department of Education and Science Assessment of Performance Unit/ NFER-Nelson Publishing, 1987.

Ohanian, Susan.  Smuggling reading into the reading program. Learning, November 1981.  44-47.

Waterland, Liz.  'Read with me' and after.  Signal, 51, 1986.  147-55.

Whitehead, Frank, Capey, A.C. and Maddren, Wendy.  Children's reading interests : an interim report from the Schools Council Research project into Children's Reading Habits, 10-15...  (Schools Council Working Paper 52).  Evans/ Methuen Educational, 1975.

Written and copyright John Royce 1995.
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John Royce, BA, MLib, ALA
Library Director, Robert College
Arnavutköy, TR-80820 Istanbul, Turkey.

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It was last revised on 5 January 2001.