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The value of reading

Posted: October 1, 2010 11:18 a.m.
Updated: October 1, 2010 11:17 a.m.

I can’t think of one thing that annoys me more than hearing someone say they never read.

Oh, wait, yes I can.

Seeing a middle or high school student’s Facebook profile include statements such as “I don’t like books” or “I have better things to do than read” may be the only thing I hate more than simply hearing someone say they never read.

Maybe it’s because I write for a living, or maybe it’s because I have a mother who works as an elementary school media specialist in Richland County, but I’ve always been a firm believer that reading is one of the most important skills a person can possess.

But sometimes, I’m not sure if a lot of people understand that, and that is what scares me. 

Knowing how to read and write well plays a major role in whatever a person wants to do in his or her life. 

It doesn’t matter if you want to be -- whether it’s a rapper, teacher or police officer -- the better you can read, the better you can write and the better you can communicate with people.

That’s why I always panic whenever a new statistic comes along that details the staggering number of South Carolina students who are reading below their grade level.

Maybe it’s not the end of Western civilization, but knowing that a large number of students graduate and enter the workforce each year without basic reading skills is nothing less than terrifying.

And to make matters worse, the U.S. Department of Education estimates that 85 percent of incarcerated youth have reading problems.

A child who cannot read well is far more likely to drop out of school, find difficulty in securing employment, and then commit repeat juvenile offenses.

Reading helps young people do well in school, develop critical thinking skills, and boost their self-esteem. 

I’ve always believed one of the best ways an adult can influence a child to read more is to simply lead by example. The more that kids see their parents pick up a book or magazine, the more value that child may place on reading regularly. 

And learning to read should begin long before a child enters school. It’s no secret young children who are not read to on a regular basis enter kindergarten less prepared than for learning than other children their age.

I’m not saying kids should spend hours each day sitting inside of their house reading. I just believe 20 minutes of reading -- whether it’s a magazine article, newspaper column or book -- can go a long way in a child’s future.

After all, teaching a child to read can create a lifetime of opportunities.


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