Worldwide, more than 770 million adults and 120 million youth cannot read or write.1 According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 36 million "adult Americans are living with the consequences of low literacy skills."2 The consequences include poor health outcomes and less access to health care, fewer job opportunities and lower paying jobs, increased criminality and exposure to violence, and political disenfranchisement. UNESCO, with some success, has sought to shed light on this issue each September 8 since 1965 by celebrating International Literacy Day.
Literacy is the basis for academic success and lifelong learning. It empowers individuals, families, and communities and improves the quality of life. Economic security, access to health care, and the ability to actively participate in civic life all depend on the ability to read. Literacy is freedom; freedom to learn, grow, and develop; freedom to maximize one's potential; freedom to have and make choices; freedom to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It's also personal... and fun... and rewarding. As kids head back to school this month, where they are learning to read and reading to learn, think about what reading means to you, what it means to those you love, and what it means for us collectively. Think about why you love to read.
Here's why I love to read:
- Inspiration - Good books are like good music. They elicit emotion. They enable reflection. They can be a call to action.
- Independence - You can learn about almost anything by reading, or at least you can get a good start. And if there's not a book about it, you just found your idea. Write one!
- Always something to do - I won't go anywhere without something to read; the doctor, the car-wash, birthday parties, gymnastics (my 2-year-old son began last week), the ballpark (seen the Astros play lately?), the grocery store (haven't read there yet, but I'm ready if it ever gets slow enough), weddings (not my own), graduations (including my own), planes, trains, and automobiles (audio books)! In the information age, it's easier than ever to get in a few minutes of reading anytime, anywhere!
- Comfort - Everyone struggles at times. Books can be friends. They can offer advice. They can provide guidance. They can help you get away for a little while, and they can bring you back.
- Endless entertainment - I won't ever exhaust resources for reading. Approximately 130,000,000 books have been published in modern history! (let me Google that for you).
- Context - I always try to read about a new place I am about to visit. It doesn't matter if I'm going to another country or just down the road. The more context you have, the richer the experience!
- Awareness - New worlds, old worlds, real worlds, and out-of- this-world. Reading expands your peripheral vision to 360 degrees. The more you read, the better feel you get for where you are and where you need to go.
- It's good for you - Reading can help reduce stress, enhance memory, and improve concentration. It can help keep the brain stimulated which has been shown to slow the progress of Alzheimer's and Dementia. A recent study has also shown that reading can improve the connectivity between the various brain circuits that are essential to understanding the written word, and that simply reading a novel can keep that enhanced connectivity working long after the novel has been completed.3
- Knowledge - Learning begets learning. Wide reading helps build background knowledge, and background knowledge contributes to and shapes new learning.
- Participation - Ever been in a group conversation only to wonder what others were talking about? Reading makes this less likely!
- Flow - I'm sorry, did you say something? I was reading! (Check out Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)
- Receiving gifts - I got the gift of reading from my Dad. Ever the busy-body, reading has always been one of his passions.
- Giving gifts - Ever the busy-body, reading has always been one of my passions. I am trying hard to pass this on to my son! As a father and an educator, the knowledge that reading proficiency by From our most recent tripto the bookstore.
- The decision - Figuring out what book to read next is as much fun as reading it. You can learn a lot before you even get to the first page.
- The first page - It's kind of like the first day of vacation, or summer, or football season (Aggies 52, South Carolina 28 to start the 2014 season). I can't wait to find out how the story ends!
- The last page - Aggies win their first national championship since 1939! OK, so probably not. But still, it always feels like an accomplishment to finish a good book.
- Reflection - Reading makes me think and, sometimes, rethink.
- It can be mindless - Reading lets me stop thinking and escape for a while when I want to.
- I love saying the word "genre" - Some of my favorites are Biography (Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson), Historical Fiction (Killer Angels by Michael Shaara), Children's Books (Goodnight Aggieland by Mark and Cimbrey Brannan), Faith & Spirituality (Generous Justice: How God's Grace Makes Us Just by Timothy Keller), True Crime (The Innocent Man by John Grisham), Thriller (11/22/63 by Stephen King), and Education (The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller).One of my latestfavorites.
- Authors become like friends - Some of my friends are David McCullough, Walter Isaacson, Ernest Hemingway, Dr. Seuss, David Shannon, Ken Follett, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Stephen King, Timothy Keller, Michael Shaara, Jeff Shaara, David Brooks, Toni Morrison, H.W. Brands, Khaled Hosseini, John Grisham, Daniel Pink, Laura Hillenbrand, David Halberstam, Mark Twain, Maya Angelou, Malcolm Gladwell, Nathaniel Philbrick, Joseph Ellis, Shel Silverstein, Thomas Friedman, Rob Bell, Ronald Takaki, C.S. Lewis, Susan Cain, Clay Shirky, Mohsin Hamid, Frank McCourt, James McPherson, Stephen Ambrose, and on and on!
Why do you love to read?
- 1-UNESCO Institute for Statistics (2013). International Literacy Data. Retrieved from http://www.uis.unesco.org/literacy/Pages/data-release-map-2013.aspx
- 2-OECD (2013), Time for the U.S. to Reskill?: What the Survey of Adult Skills Says, OECD Skills Studies, OECD Publishing. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264204904-en
- 3-Berns G., Blaine K., Prietula M., and Pye B. (2013) Short and long-term effects of a novel on connectivity in the brain. Brain Connectivity, 3(6): 590-600.
- 4-American Academy of Pediatrics (2014). Literacy Promotion: An Essential Component of Primary Care Pediatric Practice. Retrieved from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/134/2/404