The Power of Reading

B L Razdan
Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man and writing an exact man. (Francis Beacon)
The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go. (Dr. Seuss)
Reading is a powerful tool that can broaden your horizons and enhance your personal and professional growth. Whether you’re diving into a novel, a biography, or a newspaper article, you’re exposing yourself to new ideas and perspectives that can challenge your beliefs and assumptions. This exposure can help you better understand the world around you and expand your knowledge. It is instrumental in expanding one’s knowledge and worldview.
Reading can improve one’s vocabulary and communication skills. The more one reads, the more words one is exposed to, and the better one becomes at expressing one’s own ideas and insights. A strong vocabulary can also boost one’s confidence when communicating with others, whether it’s in person or in writing. Reading can also enhance one’s critical thinking skills. As one reads, one is exposed to different perspectives and ideas, which can help one develop one’s own opinions and viewpoints. This skill is particularly useful in academic or professional settings where one needs to analyse and evaluate information. Reading can also improve one’s empathy and understanding of others. Through literature, one is exposed to different cultures, experiences, and emotions, which can broaden one’s perspective and help one relate to others on a deeper level.
Reading may be just a word but the habit has a profound impact on the students and readers. It does not just offer knowledge but enhances the emotional wellness of learners. Reading is more important than it has ever been – recent research on reading, such as PEW reports and Scholastic’s “Kids and Family Reading Report,” proves that fact. This new edition of Reading Matters provides powerful evidence that can be used to justify the establishment, maintenance, and growth of pleasure reading collections, both fiction and nonfiction, and of readers’ advisory services. The authors assert that reading should be woven into the majority of library activities: reference, collection building, provision of leisure materials, readers’ advisory services, storytelling and story time programs, adult…
It is well documented in the literature that the time young adults spend reading as well as their reading level has declined significantly over the past several years. Both Krashen (The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research) and Snowball (Teenagers Talking About Reading and Libraries recommend that offering a wide range of material as well as providing young adults with the opportunity to select their own items to read may work towards improving reading time and level. The research also shows that young adults need to see themselves in stories relating to the experiences of the characters as well as the story’s setting. Specific to this project, Haymonds (“Rides of Passage,” In Dudley Jones and Tony Watkins, eds. A Necessary Fantasy? The Heroic Figure in Children’s Popular Culture (NY: Routledge, 2000) notes that horse stories “tend to be ‘rites of passage books’ ” in that they can be love stories, heroic stories, and stories of overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds. (p. 57). “A horse gives a girl a sense of her own identity, self-respect, control, and an almost mystical understanding of nature. Timid girls discover reserves of strength, diffident girls find self- esteem, troubled girls attain peace with horses.” (p. 51). Young adults need to see themselves in stories. This brand new work, fuelled by passion and interest, meets the identified need to provide this generation and future generations with powerful, life-affirming stories that appear to be not well-known and/or not widely publicized and make them accessible to a wide audience, specifically to young adults.
There are ten lessons from a highly acclaimed book by Stephen D. Krashen titled “The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research” (i) Importance of Pleasure Reading: Reading for pleasure, or what he calls “free voluntary reading,” is one of the most effective ways to acquire skills and develop a strong reading habit. (ii) Language Acquisition through Reading: Reading helps individuals acquire language naturally, both in terms of vocabulary and grammar, without explicit instruction. (iii) Comprehensible Input: The concept of “comprehensible input,” suggests that individuals learn best when they are exposed to reading that slightly exceeds their current level of understanding. (iv) Affect and Learning: Positive emotional engagement with reading materials increases the likelihood of reading effectiveness. (v) Wide Reading: Encouraging a wide range of reading materials, including books, magazines, comics, and more, helps learners encounter diverse structures and vocabulary. (vi) Reading Aloud: Reading aloud to learners of all ages can provide them with the benefits of rich vocabulary and exposure to complex sentence structures, even if they are not yet able to read independently at that level. (vii) Access to Books: Easy access to a variety of reading materials is crucial for developing strong reading habits. Having a wide selection of books available increases the likelihood of reading engagement. (viii) Role of Libraries: Libraries play a vital role in promoting reading by providing access to a variety of books and creating a conducive environment for readers. (ix) Benefits for Academic Success: The more individuals read, the better their academic performance tends to be, across various subjects and areas of study. (x) Lifelong Learning: The habit of reading instils a lifelong love of learning, encouraging individuals to seek out new information and ideas throughout their lives. These lessons provide a general overview of the concepts covered in “The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research.” Reading the book itself will provide a more in-depth understanding of research and ideas regarding the benefits of reading.
Independent reading leads to an increased volume of reading. The more one reads, the better one reads. The more one reads, the more knowledge of words and language one acquires. The more one reads, the more fluent one becomes as a reader. The more one reads, the easier it becomes to sustain the mental effort necessary to comprehend complex texts. The more one reads, the more one learns about the people and happenings of our world. This increased volume of reading is essential (Allington, 2014). The advancement of reading comprehension skills and development of vocabulary are directly tied to the work readers do during independent reading. In fact, “reading is a powerful means of developing reading comprehension ability, writing style, vocabulary, grammar, and spelling” (Krashen, 2004, p. 37).
It is imperative that students develop reading stamina – the ability to sustain mental effort without scaffolds or adult support-that allows them to comprehend increasingly complex texts (Hiebert, 2014). Independent reading offers students abundant opportunities to take responsibility for extracting meaning from text and therefore build this reading stamina. Because reading long passages of writing is important not only for college preparation but for many career skills, it’s important that students have a chance to practice with reading material of their own choosing. Likewise, students should have opportunities to practice that do not initially include summative assessment so that students can authentically develop their reading abilities. All reading communities should contain protected time for the sake of reading. Independent reading practices emphasize the process of making meaning through reading, not an end product. The school culture (teachers, administration, etc.) should affirm this daily practice time as inherently important instructional time for all readers. As much as possible, independent reading should be encouraged in a way that is most appropriate for readers to show that this skill is practiced all throughout life.
(The author is formerly of the Indian Revenue Service, retired as Director General of Income Tax (Investigation), Chandigarh.)