Reading, it is to love.

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Reading, it is to love

 

I started reading ‘What Reading Does to the Mind,’ and could not help being struck by the role that reading- or the lack of it – plays in people’s lives.  It is nearly unbelievable how some students, children actually, start school so far ahead of other students who do not read. This is not the first time I am reading something of that nature but somehow seeing it repeated again is beginning to have me taking it seriously.

It was written by Cunningham and Stanovich [1] and is one of many studies which credit reading with benefiting both the young and the old. But it has to be noted that the benefits for the young are stellar. There are young people who begin with vocabularies which far surpass that of others. Far too many children start school without the necessary reading skills and some of them keep falling behind. Indeed it has been given a name, ‘the Matthew Effect,’ since it recognizes that those who start with great reading ability make gains in vocabulary, writing skills, knowledge, while those who started out weak fall behind; the gap between these two sets of people gets wider.  In the Gospel of Mark Jesus told the story of the man who did not invest his talents and in fact lost them and the ones who had more gained what he had; hence the Matthew effect in reading.

Some way has to be found to get people, in particular the poorer ones, interested in reading. One writer suggests that it is being taught wrongly. I believe that there are those who wish young people go develop reading skills from reading books at schools. Perhaps the only high school book that I enjoyed reading was Great Expectations and it was probably because I identified with Pip. But if it was left to school reading texts I would have never liked books. When I met comics was when I started enjoying reading as much as anything I have ever loved and enjoyed. Comic after comic, Fantastic Four, Spiderman, Avengers, Reggie, Jughead, and many others. There was nothing which got my attention as much as that. No one is aware they are reading, even; it is just that the absorption takes away any feeling that you are reading. Boxes on boxes of the stuff.

And yet, something happened. I used to go to the library to do my homework, or maybe just to get out, and one day I decided to look around the library for a longer book, in the hope that being longer it would deliver a more of the pleasure I found in comics. I walked around and took a book written by Louis L’Amour and it delivered the goods. Guns smoking, fist fights, fast draw; and that was just the beginning. As for the fist fights, they were good, blow after blow. The gunfights were awesome. And reading took off. Then I had to start buying books. That is when I had to look through the book shops and I decided that the ones with Bestseller on the list for so many weeks might be good choices. Sometimes books seem to find you. But it has been quite a relation and if there is anything which has done me good, it is reading.

 

Guns of the Timberland

 

 

 

 

 

Louis L’Amour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

People read because they enjoy it and if it is not enjoyable they will simply put books away. There is TV and many other things they will go to. If we want our young people to read then we must give them books which will have them turning pages over and again. When they are hooked they will not depart. Stephen Krashen in his book ‘The Power of Reading’ recommends what he calls FVR, free voluntary reading, a concept I love. Let the child or young person choose. They will choose what they love.

There is another practice which helps the young to like reading and that is when parents read to the young ones when they are really young, before kinder. They are not able to read but they enjoy the closeness of the parent, the stories, and they pick up the vocabulary. According to Maryanne Wolf, ‘Learning to read begins the first time an infant is held and read a story. How often this happens, or fails to happen, in the first five years of childhood turns out to be one of the best predictors of later reading.’ [2] We have to approach parents and encourage them to read to their children.

A while back I read ‘The Book Thief,’ and could not put it down. Page after page, nearly bringing me, a pretty tough guy, to tears. Who dictates the course of a person’s life? Over and over I had to ask myself that question while reading that book. The sadness of life and also its joys are all there in that gripping book. And when I put it down I am, surely, a better person.

There are books which the young can enjoy, but we are the ones to expose them to those books and we, the adults have to ask ourselves if we are doing that. Are we?

 

[1] What Reading does for the Mind, Anne Cunningham and Keith Stanovich, Journal of Direct Instruction Vol 1

[2] Proust and the Squid, p 20 Maryanne Wolf

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