The cycle has continued for generations with low-income families tending to read less and a general decline in the number of readers per population. Public libraries are empty and have become an anachronism in some communities. Middle and high income earners buy their books from bookstores and a small percentage of people from lower income households read at all. It’s startling because poorer families need the information and learning the most in order to progress but fail to take advantage of government funded resources. Reading is also not perceived as “cool”. Reading or owning many books is not an indicator of wealth as much as owning a big screen TV and wearing the latest fashions is. That is a very misleading message, especially to children. If knowledge is not valued by our culture, it won’t be valued by the children growing up in our society. Literacy rates are low among prison inmates because people thought it wiser to steal goods that would make them seemingly wealthier rather than to educate themselves.
Up to the age of five, kids learn primarily by imitating adult behaviour. For this reason, it is important that we read as well. Children who are taught that reading is important to their growth by parents who do not read themselves may find it somewhat confusing. Are parents hypocrites who make their children read when they themselves find it boring? Or is reading merely a learning aid to help us grow in childhood that no longer becomes necessary when we’re all grown up?
Reading or not reading is habit forming. Children who learn to read at a young age are imaginative and develop the ability to focus. These kids also tend to do better in school as they learn not to view studying as a tedious task. You can tell when a child is a slow reader or learner in school. Classroom peers will notice, possibly to the detriment of that child’s social interaction, and teachers are also aware.
Educators cannot be expected to be the only ones contributing to the kids’ education. The parents play a vital role. I remember reading with my mom as a fun pastime we’d share. Although she was not an avid reader, seeing her enjoy reading books and magazines reinforced the message of reading as a fun activity. It is easier nowadays with e-readers, the affordability of eBooks and access to thousands of free books online. We have more resources to encourage us.
Statistically, one in five people are illiterate globally. Two thirds of illiterate adults are women. 98% of illiterate people live in developing nations.
It is also distressing that literate people in developed countries take their skills for granted. In the UK, 35% of adults never read for pleasure. Statistics in the United States are somewhat controversial with some results showing that a third of high school graduates never read books again in their lives versus others who claim that 76% of American adults read at least one book per year.
In the words of Mark Twain, “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”
Globally, we need to find ways to increase literacy and reading rates in order to decrease poverty and ignorance. Teaching our children is a good start.
Take a look at these two articles about the benefits of reading:
Statistics about reading and literacy:
For the love of Wikipedia: