School holidays + rainy weather + lockdown = reading! Any one of the elements listed can provide an impetus to read; however, all three occurring at once suggests that reading is likely to take place. It certainly did for me, as I took the opportunity to read several books that I had been wanting to read for some time but had not had time to do so. There were unexpected benefits associated with the recent lockdown.
Professor of Education at Concordia University, Sandra Martin-Chang and her colleagues have conducted research identifying significant academic benefits for secondary students who read for pleasure. Although some secondary students are reluctant to read for pleasure, often citing the emphasis on analysing texts for academic purposes as a deterrent to reading for pleasure, the researchers identified a powerful link between reading for pleasure and heightened language skills, increased creativity, development of empathy and a decrease in prejudice. Describing reading as akin to cognitive exercise, Martin-Chang emphasises that exercise shouldn't be restricted to required lessons in school, but should take place outside of class time, as well.
This research indicates that there are benefits associated with students broadening their reading experiences. Voracious, voluntary readers who 'taste' reading material from a range of different genres are academically advantaged. Students who take risks with their reading, sampling literature that they are unfamiliar with, gain a broader perspective and develop a wider range of language than students who do not read, who remain committed to a familiar, accustomed series or focus on more restricted reading material.
Adults who model reading through a variety of contexts also encourage student readers. I am reminded of a school that arranged for bank executives to sit within school grounds and read at break times to model and promote reading among students. When students observe adults in their lives reading regularly, they are much more likely to read for pleasure and gain the associated benefits. Immersing oneself in a book and reading voluntarily for pleasure provides a range of cognitive, academic, and psychological benefits.
Adults and students who are informed and experienced readers can become 'book matchmakers', sharing thoughtful, considered book recommendations, based on a student's interests and preferences – while occasionally nudging them in a slightly different direction – to prompt access to a broader range of material that is read for pleasure. These 'book matchmakers' can become a trusted resource, guiding another to the delights and benefits of reading different authors' writing, within a range of genres and for various purposes. The breadth and scope of the reading experience is beneficial for students.
Research conducted by John T, Guthrie, Emeritus Professor of Literacy at the University of Maryland, has identified that there is a cumulative aspect, with avid readers becoming more proficient at reading, gaining academic and long-term benefits associated with becoming life-long readers and learners.
© Michele Juratowitch