Building Blocks: 5 Benefits of Reading

Child Reading

There is an ongoing debate regarding the decline of literacy and its causes.  Some blame the rise of the internet surfing among youth as the culprit; others argue that print media is slowly going the way of the buffalo, and that being “well-read” is not an essential asset our digital age.

We would instead like to examine how literacy positively impacts education, because we believe good reading skills to be a cornerstone of the educational process.  Below we have highlighted five important benefits of readerly persistence.

  1. Reading is a Foundational Skill for Mastering Other Disciplines. We often take for granted the critical role reading skills play in a student’s success in other areas of learning.  It’s easy to think of math and the hard sciences as being unrelated to literacy.  However, students may grasp mathematical concepts and operations, but struggle to interpret the wording of problems (Metsisto, 2005).  Many math and science teachers find an astonishing percentage of their tutelage to be consumed by simplifying and rewording questions.
  2. Reading Improves Critical Thinking. Critical reading involves more than just the ability to comprehend strings of words; it tests the reader’s ability to take apart a text, understand the author’s worldview and interact with the themes presented.  While skimming may be easier, and a sometimes necessary skill, encouraging students to mentally interact with what they are reading can help them boost their critical thinking skills.
  3. Reading Expands Vocabulary. Vocabulary growth and reading comprehension are inextricably linked.  The better a child’s reading skills are, the better their vocabulary becomes; the better their vocabulary is, the better they are at decoding new, unfamiliar words; the better their word decoding skills, the better they are at reading (Verhoeven, et al., 2011).  Studies have shown that kids who read as little as ten minutes per day outside of school will find themselves considerably ahead of the rest of their age group (Nagy & Anderson, 1984).
  4. Better Readers are Better Writers. Writing is an invaluable life skill and research has shown that reading fluency and writing skill are tightly correlated (Brummitt-Yale, n.d.).  Reading across the genre spectrum is particularly helpful, as it allows children to experience various narratives, structures and styles.  Educators can bolster students’ literary development in circular fashion by teaching reading and writing as two sides of the same coin.  Students may benefit greatly from an explanation of how the two skills complement each other.
  5. Reading Books Improves Concentration. Experts have noted that the digital age has triggered an attention-span famine.  The issue is not that digital content is somehow lesser, but that the way it is presented (mostly in snippets, sound bites and microblogs) fundamentally alters our neural makeup.  Online we tend to skim in a staccato pattern, not fully absorbing what we read.  Our brains’ ability to critically interact with ideas, which is the key to unlocking the true value of reading, remains disengaged when rewired by the blogosphere (Carr, 2008).  On the other hand, reading books and lengthier articles (digital or print) confers concentration benefits that will positively affect a child’s entire academic career.

Want to discuss this post or point out something we didn’t mention? Feel free to sound off in the comments below.

    References

    Brummitt-Yale, J. (n.d.).  The relationship between reading and writing. Retrieved from http://www.k12reader.com/the-relationship-between-reading-and-writing/

    Carr, N. (2008).  Is Google making us stupid?  What the internet doing to our brains.  The Atlantic, July/August 2008.  Retrieved from www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/

    Metsisto, D. (2005).  Reading in the mathematics classroom.  In J.M. Kenney (ed.), Literacy strategies for improving mathematics instruction (ch. 2). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

    Nagy, W., & Anderson, R.C. (1984).  How many words are there in printed school English?  Reading Research Quarterly, 19, 304-330.

    Verhoeven, L., van Leeuwe, J., & Vermeer, A. (2011).  Vocabulary growth and reading development across the elementary school years.  Scientific Studies of Reading, 15(1), 18-19.

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