Students who read independently become better readers, score higher on achievement tests in all subject areas, and have greater content knowledge than those who do not.
(Krashen 1993; Cunningham and Stanovich 1991; Stanovich and Cunningham 1993).
Reading Makes You Smarter.
We can’t argue with that, research has proved it over and over. Reading has many benefits. We want to encourage children to read outside of school. The more reading we do, the better. Reading beats any other form of knowledge transfer in developing cognitive abilities. Vocabulary is built through reading rather than direct teaching, taking or listening. Reading also substantially boosts general and background knowledge while decreasing the likelihood of misinformation so our analytical skills improve. It also helps us keep our memory and reasoning abilities intact as we age.
Researchers Cunningham and Stanovich say that reading adheres to the Mathew Effect, which is the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Avid readers show higher rates of vocabulary acquisition, verbal skills, declarative knowledge, and better analytical skills. Basically, readers get smarter and nonreaders don’t.
We need to make sure children have an early and strong start in reading and make sure that their decoding and word recognition skills are solid. All children, regardless of achievement levels need to be exposed to as many reading experiences as possible.
The study by Cunnigham and Stanovich explains that having varied reading experiences is extremely important. Go for quantity. Students who read more books versus reading less books but are vocabulary dense have better cognitive skills. So have your students read.
The researchers analyzed the richness and rarity of words across oral communication, books, and tv. They found the spoken word the most impoverished, ranking about 400-600. Preschool books ranked frequency 627, popular magazines 1399, scientific articles 4389. Thus reading preschool books will expose you to rarer words than having a conversation with an adult college graduate.
How to Convince Our Students
All great information, right? So HOW do we convince our students and children to read! Here are some ideas to help you get started.
- CHOOSE THEIR OWN READING MATERIAL
Encourage your students to read whatever interests them. It can be novels, comics, magazines, cookbooks, etc.
- BOOK FAIR
Without turning independent reading into homework you can encourage it by creating a book fair once a month. During the book fair, students share a couple of the books they have read and talk about why or why not they would recommend them.
- Drop Everything And Read (DEAR)
Work it into your schedule – at least you know they will have to read.
- Read Aloud
Start reading a book and when it starts getting good, leave them hanging. Do this often!
- Read What Students Are Reading
Know what interests them and stay on top of it.
- Culture of Reading
Why not have all the teachers post the book they are reading on a bulletin board in the hallway. Show students that teachers read too.
- Listen to Books
If a student is a struggling reader, encourage them to listen to a book while following along.
Do you have any ideas you would like to add to this list?