By Sara Stevenson, O. Henry Middle School Librarian, Austin ISD
Like most librarians, I believe our mission to convert children into lifelong readers creates a better world, but I didn’t have hard data to support my conviction until I read Donalyn Miller’s ( www.BookWhisperer.com ) latest book, Reading in the Wild. According to research she cites from the National Endowment for the Arts’ report: “To Read or Not to Read,” adults who identify as readers vote and volunteer at higher rates. Their community involvement is higher than that of nonreaders.
The report states: “Regular reading not only boosts the likelihood of an individual’s academic and economic success—facts that are not especially surprising—but it also seems to awaken a person’s social and civic sense.”
Now we have empirical evidence behind what we have known intuitively and from our own life experience: readers make better citizens. We’ve known for years, thanks to Dr. Stephen Krashen’s The Power of Reading, that free voluntary reading leads to better literacy skills across the spectrum: reading comprehension, fluency, spelling, grammar, and writing. Now we can add citizenship to the list of benefits.
Of course, this is not to say that academic performance is not crucial as well. As Donalyn Miller reminds us in Reading in the Wild: “No matter what standards we implement or reading tests we administer, children who read the most will always outperform children who don’t read much.” (p. xix)
Readers are also more likely to succeed in the workforce, according to researcher Mark Taylor from the University of Oxford.
Never forget that our daily mission improves our world. “If young people develop a love of reading, they will have better lives.” --Rafe Esquith from Teacher Like Your Hair’s on Fire