We live in an amazing age of technology. Never before have we had so much information available at our fingertips (literally). We have the convenience of cell phones, laptops, video phones, instant messaging, texting, iPhones, email and more. If you ever have a question about anything you can Google it, and if you want to keep in touch just Twitter or get on Facebook.
All of these things are wonderful and connect people like never before. They give us access to more information in two seconds than a person in the 16th Century was exposed to in their entire life.
With all the influx of technology, I sometimes wonder if we’re losing some of the essentials. A 13-year-old girl won $25,000 from a texting competition (she averages over 8,000 texts per month to friends and family), but 37% of fourth graders are below a ‘basic’ reading level.
Speaking of fourth graders, many states, like California, use fourth grade literacy rates to estimate how many prison cells they need to build for future inmates. There is a direct link between illiteracy and crime. The average American reads less than one book per year, and 55% of Americans do not read a non-fiction book after high school.
- On average, Americans ages 15 to 24 spend almost two hours a day watching TV, and only seven minutes of their daily leisure time on reading.
- American 15-year-olds ranked fifteenth in average reading scores for 31 industrialized nations, behind Poland, Korea, France, and Canada, among others.
- Money spent on books, adjusted for inflation, dropped 14 percent from 1985 to 2005 and has fallen dramatically since the mid-1990s.
Is it any wonder that literacy is on the decline, with Americans spending more on fast food than books and education combined. Over 1.9 Billion dollars is spent on Halloween candy each year, and over $2 billion on chewing gum.
Well, the economy is not good right now, we can’t afford to buy books. Consider for a moment how much you spend on ‘necessary’ expenses like cell phones, internet, cable, Direct TV, movies, video games and more. Americans easily spend hundreds per month on these expenses. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, ask yourself, to you have a budgeted amount for books?
Brian Tracy said that you can tell a person’s values by their actions. If you believe reading is important, and you want your children to reap the full benefits of life-long learning, are your actions (and more specifically your spending) conveying that message to your children? If you spend your money every month so that there’s nothing left over for books, then your actions say that books really aren’t that important to you.
But they are important, crucially important. Here’s why:
Fourth-graders who reported daily reading for fun scored higher on the NAEP reading test than peers who reported less reading for fun (NCES, 2001b).
Children who score at the 90th percentile on a reading test spent five times as many minutes per day reading books as children at the 50th percentile (Anderson, Wilson & Fielding, 1988).
- Children and adults who read become more intelligent, influential, earn a larger income and achieve higher levels of success
So what determines whether you raise a reader or a texter?
Families play an important role in their children’s reading success.
Studies of individual families show that what they do to support literacy in the home is more important to student success than family income or education (Ballen & Moles, 1994).
When adults interact with young children — talking, singing and playing rhyming games — they stimulate language and vocabulary development and build important foundations for learning to read (Hart & Risley, 1995).
Reading to preschoolers is the most important thing families can do to prepare them for reading (Adams, 1990).
Reading aloud to infants stimulates their brains to create new learning pathways and strengthen existing ones (Shore, 1997).
Simply put, give books and reading and important place in your life. Let your actions reflect that it is consequential. Here are some action ideas to get you started:
- Decide to make a love of reading your most important educational goal for your children. Children who love to read will excel at whatever they do.
- Show your children you value reading by letting them see you do it.
- Have a wide variety of books on hand, as well as newspapers, comics, magazines, etc. Build a home library for you and your children.
- Find books that your children like- an interest in the subject is the first step to pleasure in reading.
- Spend more on books than you do on Disney movies
Extensive research has proven that reading aloud to a child is the single most important factor in raising a reader. These inexpensive fifteen minutes a day are the best-kept secret in education.
If reading to children were common instead of a rarity, we’d be facing fewer academic and social problems in the nation and the world. Consider the following statistics:
- Only 37 percent of high school students score high enough on reading achievement tests to handle adequately college-level material
- 80 percent of college faculty members report that entering freshman cannot read well enough to do college work.
- An examination of college remedial classes showed a marked increase in the enrollment for reading classes, with the greatest deficiency being reading speed and comprehension
- Literacy rates in many countries is 80-90%, unfortunately these numbers are skewed- literacy being defined as the ability to write your name and read a simple sentence.
Read-Aloud.org is committed to changing the patterns of illiteracy, and redefining the definition of literacy. Our organization is not about teaching people to read, but teaching them to want to read and to do it often. Too many people, if they do learn to read, have little interest in doing it once they are out of school “What we teach children to love and desire, will always outweigh what we teach them to do.”
The benefits of having a reading world- where people are interested in reading and make it a life-long pursuit- are unmeasurable. Reading is the heart of education and learning. Every subject flows from reading.
- The more you read, the more you know
- The more you know, the smarter you grow
- The smarter you are, the better health and employment you enjoy
- The better health and employment you have, the higher socio-economic status you have
- The higher the socio-economic status of the population, the better the economy, living conditions and overall situation of their country
- The better the overall situations of each country, the better the overall condition of the world
Reading is the ultimate weapon against ignorance, poverty, despair, hate, and crime. A nation that doesn’t read much, doesn’t know very much. And a nation that doesn’t know very much is more likely to make poor choices, to exhibit prejudice and hate, to act out in violence, to live in a perpetual cycle of poverty, crime and ignorance.
It is clear then that increasing literacy (not the ability to read and write, but the desire and implementation of reading) and creating lifetime readers, is the greatest tool we have for solving the world’s problems. A world of readers is a world of big thinkers, innovators, problem solvers, peacemakers.
People who are readers are people who can start and grow businesses, get better employment, solve problems, make more money and improve as individuals.
As individuals improve, communities improve. As communities improve, nations improve. As nations improve, the world improves.
The challenge then is in creating a world population that is more interested in carrying books than in carrying guns, a population that isn’t just able to read, but wants to read and actually does it, and has access to the resources to do it (books).
How can this be accomplished?:
- Develop the habit of reading as an individual. The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; the more you like it, the more you do it.
- Promote a love of reading in the next generation. This is done by simply reading aloud to the children in your life for at least 15 minutes a day. Reading aloud has been proven to create a positive association with reading in the minds of children, thus creating a life long desire to read.
- Help provide the necessary resources (books) to those who don’t have access to them. Many impoverished people do not have the money to buy books or access to public libraries. Read-Aloud.org is committed to getting the best books into the hands of the poorest people, those who need them the most.
Take these simple steps towards making world changes. Read every day, and read to your children everyday.
“If a nation (world) expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” Thomas Jefferson