Developing a reading habit

During my research for my thesis, I spent a lot of time reading about the importance of reading (how meta is that…) and I discovered some very interesting things. I thought I’d share some of the most interesting tidbits of information that I discovered here. I also shared a video on my YouTube channel with my top five tips for developing a reading habit – I’ll post a link to that at the end of this post.

One of the most interesting pieces of information I came across when researching for my thesis was the spiral of causality of reading (Mol & Bus, 2011, p.267). This spiral refers to an upwards trajectory of reading development if the habit is created early in a child’s life and maintained throughout all levels of schooling and into adulthood. The effects of this spiral are that students are more likely to increase their literacy levels and are therefore more likely to experience greater academic achievement (OECD, 2012). When talking to students, this spiral allows for a visual representation of the difference between one who reads and one who doesn’t. When you demonstrate the spiral to students, they can see the person who doesn’t read as represented by one hand held lower down, the person who reads is then shown as the other hand moving in an upwards circular motion away from the person who doesn’t. Couple this with the data from the OECD that found that “[o]n average, students who read daily for enjoyment score the equivalent of one-and-a-half years of schooling better than those who do not” (2011, p. 2) and students start to see the real benefits of reading. To really hammer home this information to students, you can go one step further to demonstrate the amount of words they will come across just by reading for 20 minutes a day. Nagy and Herman (1987) state that students that read for 20 minutes a day throughout the school year are exposed to approximately 1,800,000 words, which is in direct contrast to students that read for five minutes a day as they are exposed to approximately 282,000 words. When I shared all this information with my students, I could see the cogs turning in their brains as they processed it. It also produced some interesting questions and discussion.

The issue of balancing reading for pleasure with reading for school work is one topic that comes up whenever I am talking to my students about their reading. While reading for school work is important, I did come across some interesting research by Jennifer and Ponniah (2015) that describes the detrimental effects that too much reading for school can have on reading for fun. They coined the term “readicide”, which is defined by Jennifer and Ponniah, as “a systematic killing of the love of reading” (2015, p.1). As an educator it’s tricky to balance the curriculum requirements and the desire to support students in their reading journey. This phenomenon of readicide is something that I myself experienced. When I hit year 10, reading for pleasure was something that I stopped doing simply because my focus was school work (unless it was the new Harry Potter book). I didn’t fall in love with reading again until I was 18 and I discovered Twilight (don’t judge me, this series was exactly what I needed to rekindle my love of reading again). I think this was largely due to the fact that when I was in year 10 school work became the priority and therefore reading took a back seat. I am pleased that I rediscovered reading after graduating, but I can certainly empathize with my students that are currently going through the same thing.

While I managed to rediscover reading as an adult, there are many of my adult friends that didn’t. The number of conversations I’ve had with adults about their reading is quite large. It often happens shortly after they find out that I’m a teacher librarian and it usually goes something like this: “Oh! You’re a teacher librarian, you must read a lot. I used to read when I was a kid but I just don’t have the time these days, I wish I did though!”

During my research for my thesis, I came across the concept of aliteracy (Jennifer & Ponniah, 2015). To be illiterate means that you cannot read, to be literate means you can, and to be aliterate means that you can but you choose not to. This is what most adults in Australia could be classed as. The choice to read for pleasure is no longer the number one choice to make when we are bored. The increase of streaming services available and the rise of social media has shortened our attention spans. This means that adults find reading to be difficult because of the concentration factor which, in turn, means they make the choice to do something easy during their down time – like binge watching TV series (no judgement here, I make that choice at times too!) Despite this choice, many adults that I talk to about reading often speak fondly of their reading experiences growing up and lament their desire to “be a reader again.”

And so, my YouTube video “Five tips for developing a reading habit” was born. I’ve had some positive comments and conversations with some of my adult friends around this video already. I think the biggest thing to acknowledge when thinking about trying to get back into reading as an adult is that it’s not going to be easy. When you have spent some time choosing not to read, making the conscious decision to sit down and read a book can be daunting and most definitely challenging. However, if you really want to do it then all you have to do is start.

References

Jennifer J.M, & Ponniah R.J. (2015). Pleasure reading cures readicide and facilitates academic reading. I-manager’s Journal on English Language Teaching, 5(4), https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1097376.pdf.

Mol S. E., & Bus, A. (2011). To read or not to read: A meta-analysis of print exposure from infancy to early adulthood. Psychological Bulletin, 137(2), 267-296.

Nagy W.E, & Herman P.A. (2014). Breadth and depth of vocabulary knowledge: Implications for acquisition and instruction. In M. G. McKeown & M. E. Curtis (Eds.). The nature of vocabulary acquisition. New York: Psychology Press

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD]. (2011). Do students today read for pleasure? PISA in Focus 8. 18 September Retrieved from https://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisaproducts/pisainfocus/48624701.pdf

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