Reading is Still the Golden Elixir
By Christy S. Martin, Ed.D.
Many experts are saying we will not be out of the woods with COVID-19 for many months. It is an instructional year that is of concern to teachers, parents, communities and even the youth. One thing we can do to promote academic maturity in our youth is to continue to promote reading. Many adults have used the pandemic to read more, something that requires little effort, and is an activity we can do while socially distanced masked and in online and hybrid formats. Educators can, now more than ever, use reading to promote more than just literacy. It is still the golden elixir of learning.
Reading improves the mind and the individual in so many ways. Books, electronic, online or on paper are readily available whether a child has an Internet connection or not. Many people without official schooling are considered self-educated because they are well read. Reading inspires research and writing and there is no better way to stimulate thought than through something that inspires the mind through the eyes of a reader. Why is reading so important?
- Reading improves grammar, punctuation and vocabulary. Seeing words in context implants meaning in the brain. Similarly, seeing grammar and punctuation correctly used in novel or narrative writing affects the brain’s ability to copy that process when personally speaking and writing.
- Reading provides information about art, history, science, mathematics, places and people. There is so much information in books and online that if not purposely learned by the reader is casually learned. Read about most anything and you will find out things about other cultures, people, places and things.
- Reading improves intelligence. A study of identical twins at the University of Edenborough in 2014 found that reading not only serves to improve knowledge but that reading as a child affects intelligence levels all through life. Other studies indicate that the stronger the person’s early reading skills are the higher their IQ is at all ages.
- Reading improves socio economic levels. According to Learning and Instruction (October 2019) reading develops skills that enable readers to lift themselves out of poverty by furthering their education, improving their communication skills, self-esteem and knowledge of others.
- Reading improves health. Reading reduces stress, improves sleep and enhances social skills by providing information that helps individuals understand others. (Healthline, 2019)
- Reading improves emotional intelligence. Readingpartners.org tells us that reading helps one to understand complex relationships, use reasoning and logic, increases empathy by exposure to a large amount of experiences and enhances self-awareness by creating an emotional response in the reader.
- You are not alone when you are reading. Right now, many of our youth of all ages are home alone or with their siblings. Reading can provide an escape to another world that provides the mind with an activity that can build information and enhance thinking away, but also linked to the digital screen of assignments.
All of these are crucial in our uncertain times and will provide a means for kids to keep learning no matter what the format, even if it is on their own in isolation.
How can we encourage kids to read online and/or in person? Lots of ways. Many of these are the basics that have always worked and still do, no matter what the instructional format.
Get kids reading online by having kids research topics of interest and then write about them or report about them whether in an online or in-person format.
Have reading discussion groups about poems, short stories, novels, etc. Many books provide questions for discussion groups. Current events can be a great source of interest and discussion following the reading of info on the topic. Fiction, non-fiction and poetry all provide interesting stimulating text for reading.
Use project-based learning that requires reading and research for a group or individual project. Up that lagging history information level. There is a lot of history that makes for high interest reading.
Assign different parts of a novel to different youth and then come together to discuss the whole. A great way to learn is to be transported through reading to a different place and time.
Have youth write their own stories from imagination, illustrate them, and print them and create a book that others can read and review. Good writers read their writing aloud for clarity and interest. Have students do that as part of an assignment.
Read aloud to kids, ask parents to read to their kids as an assignment. Everyone loves a good story. Assign audio books. Some students have never tried them and will find them a refreshing way to learn.
If schools are closed, make a visit to the public library either online or in person where getting a library card is the assignment along with checking out a book and reporting on their experience. Good libraries will welcome the assignment and assist the kids in their quest. These days, electronic libraries are excellent sources of information and digital books. Reluctant readers need the experience and voracious readers will excel.
Get lots of books to read and give assignments to kids with no Internet connection. Visit them, call them, or write them by old-fashioned snail mail. They need to know they are still connected to school and their teacher and their friends. Have their friends write them and in return they can write their classmates. An education pen pal can make life interesting and an education care package is always fun.
Make it a game using tokens, rewards, homework opt outs or whatever you have available to get students reading. Reading a high interest novel can be the homework. One school installed vending machines filled with books where kids can get books to keep with tokens they earn.
There are so many ways to connect with kids and reading can provide the hook that reels them in for more reading. It is so important to the overall mental, emotional and physical well-being of each generation of knowledge seekers. Reading is learning. In this age of uncertainty about learning we can depend on the written word to inspire, connect, and add to the knowledge base of our kids. We owe them the positive experiences of well written narratives in a current troubled world.
About the author
Dr. Christy Martin recently retired with 30 plus years of experience as an educator in K-12 and higher education and another 6 years in social service for foster youth. She considers advocating for at-risk youth a calling. Since retiring in February, she has returned to her love of writing, currently practicing that craft by writing about child welfare and school issues. She lives in East Tennessee, 15 miles from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
This article was originally published by The Learning Counsel, a research institute and news media hub focused on providing context for the shift in education to digital curriculum