February is when many schools and libraries celebrate I Love to Read Month. It is a month long celebration for all things reading.
Some may wonder what is the big deal about reading and will ask why it takes a month to celebrate. I would argue that a month is not nearly long enough. Reading should be celebrated, practiced, practiced and then practiced some more as it is the foundation for life in so many ways.
Let me share with you some reading facts first and then challenge you.
• Only one-third of all students entering high school are proficient in reading (NAEP Reading_2009)
• Two-thirds of eighth-graders do not read at grade level (proficient). (NAEP Reading_2009)
• Boys lag behind girls in reading proficiency in all 50 states — in some states by as many as 10 percentage points. (Center for Education Policy)
• Only 31 percent of college graduates have high level literacy skills. (2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy, cited by The New York Times)
• The Coalition for Juvenile Justice (2001) reports that 82 percent of prison inmates are high school dropouts, and a very high proportion of them cannot read. (Adolescent Literacy: A National Reading Crisis)
• More than one-third of all juvenile offenders read below the fourth-grade level. (Adolescent Literacy: A National Reading Crisis)
• Children who grow up in homes where books are plentiful go further in school than those who don’t. Children with low-education families can do as well as children with high-education families if they have access to books at home. (Family scholarly culture and educational success: Books and schooling in 27 nations)
• Children learn an average of 4,000 to 12,000 new words each year as a result of book reading. (Scholastic: Classroom Libraries Work!)
There is so much more that can be shared, but I think you get the point. Reading is at the core of our lives, or at least should be.
I don’t know about you, but these facts are startling to me and indicate that our emphasis on reading in the schools is completely justified. I am a math and science guy, but without the foundational skills in reading I would not be able to succeed in my areas of interest.
One of the best research studies ever done by our government (some would argue the only good study done by our government) was on the topic of literacy and reading. It proved that families and homes that are rich in literature have children who are more successful in school, jobs, friendships and relationships. The evidence was convincing.
So what can you do to insure that your children are given the opportunity to reach their full potential? Below is a list of possibilities. There are many other ideas out there; don’t hesitate to ask your child’s teacher for more support in your efforts at home.
• READ — model for your children that you are a reader. Magazines, newspapers, books, online articles — it all counts.
• READ some more!
• Provide trips to the library.
• Do book exchanges with your friends and their kids.
• Limit TV and Internet time. Research shows that more than 10 hours per week is detrimental to brain development in children.
• When watching TV turn on the Closed Captioning. Our listening comprehension skills develop sooner than our reading comprehension skills and this connection will help. Finland has the highest rate of literacy in the world right now and, not coincidentally, the highest use of Closed Captioning.
• Read aloud to your children, even when they seem too old and especially when they seem too young.
• Make sure there are plenty of reading materials available in your home.
• READ. Just like any skill it takes practice. The more you read the better you get, plain and simple.
I could go on and on, but the reality is we all need to make reading a priority in our homes and schools. It is without a doubt the foundation of a successful life and a successful community.
(Dave Endicott is principal at Eagle View Elementary School.)