The need to read

Published in Eastern Visayas Journal on January 8, 2021

I love to read, a personal interest nurtured by my parents who always brought me books as pasalubong from their business trips to Manila or Cebu. I started writing for The Maya Series as a passion project to promote our Waray arts, culture, and traditions, and contribute to Waray literature. More importantly, I wanted to share my love of reading and encourage reading not just as a school requirement but as a hobby for students. With so many distractions vying for the attention of young people’s free time today, reading for pleasure cannot be overstated. We know that good readers make for smart students. Evidence also show that reading has a profound impact on a person’s life long after leaving the classroom. Research commissioned by The Reading Agency in the UK found that reading for pleasure not only improves relationships with others, it provides many health benefits including reduced symptoms of depression and dementia, and improved wellbeing.

The need to read should be one of the national priorities. Our children are simply not reading enough. Philippines ranked the lowest in reading out of 79 countries in 2018, the most recent year the triennial Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) was administered. 15-year old Filipino students scored 340 points compared to the average of 487 points attained by member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Broken down by gender, our boys scored an average of 325 points compared to our girls with 352 points.

So how do we tackle this problem and where do we start? We can adopt a two-prong school and home approach. We need to look at our daily class schedule and find out how much time we spend on reading. Let’s provide more support in grades K-2 where students are learning to read. At around grade 3, students start reading to learn; let’s provide more reading materials and resources. Much like training for a sport, reading stamina can be developed through practice and technique. It is important to put books of various genres in the hands of our students; they do not even have to be physical books. There are many websites offering free access to thousands of ebooks such as the International Children’s Digital Library and Project Gutenberg. At home, let us make the time to read to our children, read with our children, or let the children read on their own. According to Nagy and Herman, a student who reads at least 20 minutes every night will have read a staggering 1.8 million words in a school year! Compare that to a student who spends only five minutes a day reading resulting to just 282,000 words in a school year, or another student who reads just one minute a day will only read 8,000 words. You can expect that a student with an extensive vocabulary will not only be successful at school, but also in life. 

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