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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Why Reading Programs are Necessary In and Out of the Classroom

Reading, writing, and arithmetic are considered the cornerstone of all education. Pre-reading and pre-writing skills develop at the same time. Reading programs build a student's mastery of the language and directly impacts how effectively the communicate. These programs are most effective when supported with extracurricular reading activity. Literacy and effective communication are the keys to success in the social and professional spheres of life, in addition to academia.

The skills of reading and writing are closely tied together, often considered as being crucial to long term educational success. With out adequate skills in reading, one finds that writing skills are hindered in development. An early reader's success in understanding syllables and phonemes directly translates into skills in constructing words. Similar successes in understanding sentence structure and context cues leads to success in all areas of written communication.

K12Reader, in their excellent article The Relationship between Reading and Writing, note that time spent reading builds writing skills. They additionally note that phonemic awareness allows them to comprehend how to construct new words and to decode an unfamiliar word when presented to them. Reading can be used to build a skill set required for writing to a specific genre, because it familiarizes the student with the methods of constructing the narrative, commonly accepted techniques for transitions between concepts, and related ideas.

Acadia University stated in 2001 that the consequences of poor literacy and language skills can be seen in poor academic performance, lowered self-esteem, reduced psychosocial development of young persons. The impact of poor literacy skills can not only be found in the younger population. The National Comission on Adult Literacy reported that in 2007 of the 30 member nations in OECD, the United States was the only nation that had young adults who were less educated then the older generations. The Huffington Post reported in July of 2012 that the United States ranked 14th in reading skills out of the thirty four nations that participated in the study by Harvard University.

Weakness in literacy skills can be considered a contributing factor to the poor performance that the United States showed in mathematics and science, ranking 25th out of 34. Poor literary skills result in adults having a wide range of detrimental effects in their lives. The Literacy Foundation reports on their website that the top three consequences of illiteracy are:

  1. Limited access to essential information
  2. Unemployment
  3. Poverty

Within the classroom, reading skills are necessary in virtually every subject. A strong set of reading skills benefit students in their ability to decode mathematics and scientific jargon. Reading comprehension is a vital part of one's ability to do simple and complex word problems. It is also important in helping a student to make sense of things such as the scientific method.

Reading programs that are supported outside of the classroom tend to have greater success then those which are not. The success of reading programs that are supported outside of the classroom environment lies in two areas. The first is repetition of the skill set required for reading. With greater repetition, the skills and concepts become more deeply ingrained into the student's mind. The second place that extracurricular reading program support is successful is that it models the benefits and skills for students.

Students are not only learning that reading is important in the classroom, but that it also has “real world” applications. It is ultimately, those “real world” applications that determine the success of a student. Skills in reading and literacy allows a person to interact more efficiently with their environment. It gives them greater access to information that allows them to broaden their knowledge base and to draw upon the knowledge base of others. All of this would not be possible with out a fundamental knowledge of reading that can only come from vigorous exercise in and outside of the classroom environment.

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