Reading. It seems for time immemorial it has been the unifying pastime for peoples across the eons. Yet in our Digital Age, the fate of the physical book has been bemoaned, replaced by eReaders. But now it seems like the act of reading itself, regardless of the medium, is in trouble. A 2011 report from People for Education used data from the provincial Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) and shows that the percentage of children in grade 3 who report they “like to read” has dropped from 75% in 1998/99 to 50% in 2010/11. The number of students in grade 6 who “like to read” fell from 65% to 50% in the same time period. Only 21% of Ontario children in grade 3 reported that they read together with a parent or guardian “every day or almost every day”. Please see figure 1 below for an illustration of this worrying trend.
But you may be asking, why is this considered a disturbing development? Why should we encourage students to read for fun? There are a multitude of reasons. International studies show that students with a more positive attitude toward reading tend to be more successful in all subjects; also, according to People for Education they are more likely to read more and to seek deeper knowledge and consequently develop deeper conceptual understandings of the subject matter. There are psychological and cognitive benefits of reading actual books, particularly fiction: creation of spatial awareness, encouraging empathy, increased and diverse vocabulary, improved ability to express oneself, aids brain growth, and reduces stress. Research shows that “engaged” readers are also more likely to be socially and civically engaged, in addition to being high performers at school.
There are many more benefits to enjoying reading and being an active reader, but the big question is, how do we get kids to enjoy reading again? One of the main proposals has been to make parents aware of the importance of reading, and to encourage them to instill a love of books in their children at a young age. Another key answer is to make sure schools are adequately supplied with books, have a functional library, and an in-school teacher-librarian. Unfortunately, many public schools in Ontario do not have a teacher-librarian, which is another downward trend in our educational system. That is why I recommend parents to make sure they choose a school that values reading, has a well-provisioned library, and a teacher-librarian: elements that are most often found in private schools.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post (no joke intended). Please let me know, how do you think we can get our kids to enjoy reading again, and reverse the trend?