The Importance of Reading from Director Ryan Johnson in Library News & Notes

A friend of mine recently shared a TikTok of some random guy reciting all sorts of doom and gloom stats around book reading. I put forth a bit of effort, but ultimately couldn’t find his sources (not terribly surprising for TikTok content, but I digress).

Assuming the best, let’s take these stats at face value.

According to the video, 33% of high school graduates never read a book again. That jumps to 42% when looking at college graduates. Perhaps even more alarming is that 80% of U.S. families didn’t buy or read a book in the last year.

If you are like me, these stats are troubling and a bit unbelievable. Frustrated that I couldn’t find references to back up these claims, I pivoted and found some similar stats from much more reputable sources.

The following figures come from the National Center for Education Statistics and the National
Institute for Literacy.

A shocking 52% of U.S. adults “lack proficiency in literacy,” which means they read below a sixth-grade reading level. What’s more, only 37% of high school seniors achieved “proficient” or higher in reading performance on a national standardized test.

Sharing these stats aren’t meant to shame anyone or disparage our schools. Literacy, after all, can take many forms. A person may not be a “proficient” reader, but they may be highly literate in math, science, social-emotional skills, the arts, computer science, you name it.

There is a strong correlation, however, between reading literacy and poverty. Data shows that 43% of adults with the lowest literacy levels live in poverty. And circling back to those high school seniors,
students from high-poverty schools scored significantly lower (32 points) on those standardized tests than students from low-poverty schools.

It’s evident that while reading is not an end-all-be-all, it does serve as a foundational block for so many other pursuits and opportunities.

So, what can we do about this? In our own homes and circles of influence we must make space for reading. If you missed Dr. Hruby’s article in last week’s paper, I highly encourage you to seek it out. You’ll find it on page 12.

She wrote, in-part, “Time spent reading increases a child’s vocabulary. Reading is critical for the development of a strong vocabulary and honing comprehension skills, but it also provides quiet, mindfulness time children need now more than ever. Our world is filled with stimulation, from
electronic devices, media and games, and we need to intentionally carve out time for quiet activities in order to destress and reduce stimulus.”

I couldn’t agree more.

This time spent reading not only benefits children, but adults as well. We all have stress in our days, reading can be a great way to cope with that stress. It gives the mind space to work. I’m willing to
bet everyone has experienced being in the shower and having a great idea or coming up with a solution to a nagging problem.

Reading can achieve something similar. In some instances, the words on the page become the white
noise and the mind can relax. We reduce the stimulus of the world and are better for it.

Happy reading.

This article originally appeared in the O’Fallon Weekly.

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