Monday, August 23, 2010

For the Love of Reading...

F. Skinner, a behavior Psychologist of the 20th century said:
“ We shouldn’t teach great books, we should teach a love of reading.”

During the summer months when the kids are out of school the children are encouraged to read. Even though most children are learning to read in school, the parents are always the first and most important teachers in the life of the child. It is crucial for parents to encourage and support their children’s reading efforts.

Reading is an important skill for learning language, understanding the content of the material and later on, comprehending, analyzing and evaluating that content. It is an important growth process for the child and often starts with the parent reading to the child and installing a love of reading.

Why is Reading Important?
1. Makes you smarter
2. Reduces stress
3. Promotes tranquility
4. Improves critical and analytical thinking
5. Increases vocabulary
6. Improves memory
7. Improves writing skills
8. Learn about other cultures and traditions
9. Reduces boredom
10. Have something interesting to share with others

Which Books to Read?
That is a very personal preference and I believe that those who love reading don’t need any suggestions. For those who don’t fancy reading, you have to ask yourself: what am I most interested in? Or what subject would I like to expand my knowledge in?

Bookstores are full of subject after subject. Do you like poetry? Do you like ballads, essays, realistic stories or novels? Or do you like history, biographies, spiritual or motivational literature?

Just like with anything in life, you have to develop a desire for reading and learning. Maybe a good friend can give you some ideas; or ask a trusted teacher. If you have kids in your family, maybe you like to read to them, children love that kind of attention.

What is Literacy?
Literacy has traditionally been described as the ability to read and write. It is a concept claimed and defined by a range of different theoretical fields. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) defines literacy as the "ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society."

Literacy has never been a fixed stable concept and has a large range of definitions. Long time ago, literacy meant the capacity to speak and sing, to use spoken language eloquently for public purposes. Just about a 100 years ago in the United States, the ability to sign one's own name on a land deed or bank check was the socially accepted mark of literacy. Merely being able to mark an "X" on a deed at times made one literate.

In 1998, figures showed that 16% of the world population is illiterate (using the UN definition).

From The Literacy Company:
• 46% of American adults cannot understand the label on their prescription medicine.

• It is estimated that as many as 15 percent of American students may be dyslexic.

• 50 percent of American adults are unable to read an eighth grade level book.

• There are almost half a million words in our English Language – the largest language on earth, incidentally – but a third of all our writing is made up of only twenty-two words.

• In a class of 20 students, few if any teachers can find even 5 minutes of time in a day to devote to reading with each student.

• Out-of-school reading habits of students has shown that even 15 minutes a day of independent reading can expose students to more than a million words of text in a year.

• The average reader spends about 1/6th of the time they spend reading actually rereading words.

• When the State of Arizona projects how many prison beds it will need, it factors in the number of kids who read well in fourth grade

Where to Find Reading Materials?
Today, bookstores are pretty much in all towns, or if you don’t have one close, you can always go to the internet to shop. I like to go to second hand stores or even search thrift stores. If this does not suit you, you can always check out the public library in your city where you can lend books for free.

“Spoken words are the symbols of mental experience, and written words are the symbols of spoken words.” ~~ Aristotle

History of Libraries:
Philanthropist Andrew Carnegie said, "There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth, receives the slightest consideration."
Public libraries support their constituents in many ways, especially in leaner economic times.

Collections of knowledge are as old as time. In ancient Mesopotamia which is today’s Iraq, about 5,000 years ago, they found a collection of 30,000 clay tables. 1,300 BC Egyptian collected papyrus rolls. Books could only be replicated by copying the hand written words. Aristotle supposedly amassed a large private collection.

The Great Library of Alexandria (Egypt), under the direction of King Ptolemy, desired to have copies of all the books of the world – translated into Greek.

In Rome, under Julius Cesar, 200 BC, wanted to create a public library. In modern times libraries were first supported by universities.

The oldest library in America began with a 400-book donation by a Massachusetts clergyman, John Harvard, to a new university that eventually honored him by adopting his name. Another clergyman, Thomas Bray from England, established the first free lending libraries in the American Colonies in the late 1600s. Subscription libraries - where member dues paid for book purchases and borrowing privileges were free - debuted in the 1700s. In 1731, Ben Franklin and others founded the first such library, the Library Company of Philadelphia. The initial collection of the Library of Congress was in ashes after the British burned it during the War of 1812. The library bought Thomas Jefferson's vast collection in 1815 and used that as a foundation to rebuild.

It wasn't until waves of immigration and the philosophy of free public education for children that public libraries spread in the US. The first public library in the country opened in Peterborough, New Hampshire, in 1833. Philanthropist Andrew Carnegie helped build more than 1,700 public libraries in the US between 1881 and 1919.

How is Reading Taught Today?
Phonics approach.
The phonics approach teaches word recognition through learning grapheme-phoneme (letter-sound) associations. The student learns vowels, consonants, and blends, and learns to sound out words by combining sounds and blending them into words. By associating speech sounds with letters the student learns to recognize new and unfamiliar words.

Linguistic method.
This method uses a "whole word" approach. Words are taught in word families, or similar spelling patterns, and only as whole words. The student is not directly taught the relationship between letters and sounds, but learns them through minimal word differences. As the child progresses, words that have irregular spellings are introduced as sight words.

Multisensory approach.
This method assumes that some children learn best when content is presented in several modalities. Multisensory approaches that employ tracing, hearing, writing, and seeing are often referred to as VAKT (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, tactile) methods. Multisensory techniques can be used with both phonics and linguistic approaches.

Phonics vs Whole Word
The alphabetic writing system evolved with letters representing sounds, not concepts. A “systematic” phonics method teaches students the letter-sounds and basic spelling rules at the very beginning of school. In whole-word, the child learns to recognize and understand the complete word or group of words in context with other words or pictures and the human brain learns or infers the phonetic rules.

How can Children with Dyslexia or ADD/ADHD Learn to Read?
Educators have long discovered that there is no single method or single combination of methods that can successfully teach all children to read. Therefore, teachers must have a strong knowledge of the children in their care in order to create the appropriate balance of methods needed for the children they teach. The multi-sensory teaching approach helps children to learn through more than one sense. Traditionally, reading is taught through hearing or seeing. A dyslexic child may experience difficulties with either or both of these senses. Persons with learning disabilities who need work on reading comprehension often respond to explicitly taught strategies which aid comprehension such as skimming, scanning and studying techniques.

How did the Written Word Develop?
The earliest form of writing could be called “picture writing;” this type of writing has been discovered on cave walls and dates back thousands of years. Picture writing evolved into character writing in certain cultures throughout the world. Many Asian countries use this type of writing in modern times. With this type of writing, each symbol or character represents a concept. Character writing does not depend on how the concept might look, as in picture writing, or on how the word may sound, as in alphabetic writing. One of the disadvantages of this type of written language is the sheer number of characters that must be memorized, as every word is represented by a different character.

Over history, humans have found methods to represent their spoken words with written symbols.

6,000,000 BC -- Spoken language is a natural, biological form of human communication that is over 6 million years old.

6000 BC -- Reading is an invention that is only 6000 years old. There simply hadn't been enough evolutionary time, yet, for the human physiology of reading to be perfected.

4000 BC -- Sumerian Logographs were simple pictures of objects and activities written on clay tablets.

2000 BC -- Phoenician alphabet contained consonants only

1000 BC -- Greeks added vowels to the alphabet. This is the same alphabet we use today – and it is humanity’s greatest inventions.

200 BC -- Aristophanes' plays add punctuation

700 AD -- lower case characters by Medieval Scribes

800 AD -- paper and wood block printing presses were developed in China.

900 AD -- the last major upgrade in text took place: the insertion of spaces between words. Also developed by Medieval Scribes, this invention made it possible, for the first time, for the vast majority of readers to be able to read silently. Prior to this, most readers had to read out loud in order to be able to read at all.

800-1300 AD – papyrus scrolls were replicated in Egypt and sold as books.

1500 AD -- Arrival of the printing press, invented by Johannes Guttenberg in Germany.

2000 AD -- ebooks to be read online

Long before the written word, in primitive times, stories were passed on from generation to generation by word of mouth. Many of the fables and fairy tales we know today were based on those old stories. Since the invention of the printing press, these stories have become an integral part of the childhood of generations.

Around 300 BC, in Greece lived a storyteller named Aesop  who collected fables about animals, and stories on how to solve human problems.

During the 19th century, Hans Christian Anderson  gathered stories in the countryside of Denmark which are still read today.

During the same time in Germany, the brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm  published a collection of fairy and folk tales.

When did Reading and Writing Become Essential for Human Life?
Today, at least in our country, everybody has access to an education. Reading and writing and understanding the written word are crucial even for the least educated person.

"Learning to read is like learning to drive a car. You take lessons and learn the mechanics and the rules of the road. After a few weeks you have learned how to drive, how to stop, how to shift gears, how to park, and how to signal. You have also learned to stop at a red light and understand road signs. When you are ready, you take a road test, and if you pass, you can drive. Phonics-first works the same way. The child learns the mechanics of reading, and when he's through, he can read. Look and say works differently. The child is taught to read before he has learned the mechanics — the sounds of the letters. It is like learning to drive by starting your car and driving ahead. . .And the mechanics of driving? You would pick those up as you go along." — Rudolf Flesch, "Why Johnny Still Can't Read," 1981

In today’s job market, an education is crucial for any job seeker. With the advent of the internet in 1980’s, reading and writing became even more crucial to participate in the world wide web.

Some Interesting Statistics about Reading:
The following statistics about book publishing and reading were found on,/ the Web site of self-publishing guru Dan Poynter. They'll give you an idea of what you're up against if you want to write books for a living.

1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.
80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
57 percent of new books are not read to completion.
70 percent of books published do not earn back their advance.
70 percent of the books published do not make a profit.
(Source: Jerold Jenkins,

53 percent read fiction, 43 percent read nonfiction. The favorite fiction category is mystery and suspense, at 19 percent.
55 percent of fiction is bought by women, 45 percent by men.
(Source: Publishers Weekly)

About 120,000 books are published each year in the U.S.

A successful fiction book sells 5,000 copies.
A successful nonfiction book sells 7,500 copies.
(Source: Authors Guild,

On average, a bookstore browser spends 8 seconds looking at a book's front cover and 15 seconds looking at the back cover.
(Source: Para Publishing,

Each day in the U.S., people spend 4 hours watching TV, 3 hours listening to the radio and 14 minutes reading magazines.
(Source: Veronis, Suhler & Associates investment banker)

I like to finish this exploration on the love of reading with this poem by Rudyard Kipling:

The "Five Ws" (and one H) were memorialized by Rudyard Kipling in his "Just So Stories" (1902), in which a poem accompanying the tale of "The Elephant's Child" opens with:

I keep six honest serving-men (They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.

May reading inspire you and allow you to explore whole new worlds and let it stimulate your imaginations. May it also transform into the person you were meant to be.


Yusun said...

wow, so much information about reading! i'm impressed! reading is also especially helpful when learning another language. :) thanks for the blog!

RaySolution said...

Thanks Yusun for your gracious comment. Obviously, I should have studying another language included in the love of reading. That was pretty much my learning process for acquiring the English language.