Get into the reading habit

Published June 26, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin

When was the last time you read a book? Do you click a title that says ‘five-minute read’ – and finish reading the whole article?

Reading is one of the most important skills because it leads to knowledge, self-improvement, and better comprehension of the world around us. Even though that is common knowledge, many seem to be running out of time for reading, whether that’s to get information, or for leisure.

We bring up this topic today because of the perception that there is a fading interest in real reading, meaning, in reading long text that requires comprehension and focus. With the internet revolutionizing our world, there is an impatience for fast information that can be picked up from a meme, an art card, a chat, or a video. Often, even an article that takes five minutes to read is seen as too long.

With the fast pace of life — and the ready quick bits of knowledge that the internet presents – real reading, which involves thinking, learning, and expanding a reader’s knowledge, is losing its appeal.

There are many reasons why people should not give up reading, especially for leisure. According to experts, for adults, “reading boosts brain power, creating cognitive engagement which can help enhance memory.” Do you know that reading a book or a long article helps the brain learn to remember the information through a storyline?

It is common knowledge too that reading expands one’s vocabulary that leads to better comprehension skills. “A large-scale statistical review of 99 different research studies found that the amount of leisure time children spent reading or being read to is a powerful predictor of comprehension (and other literary skills),” according to an education website. The result is smarter children.

The home is an important factor in inspiring interest in reading for leisure. Children need to be encouraged to read books and long articles to build their vocabulary, enhance their comprehension, and stimulate their imagination. It is a habit that they can take with them to adulthood which can improve their other skills for successful careers.

Since reading forms a strong foundation for learning, the community can also take the initiative to start reading programs to teach children who are lagging behind in school work. There is no way that one can make it to higher learning if reading is not mastered first.

A joint report by UNICEF in partnership with UNESCO and the World Bank showed that learning poverty — being unable to read and understand a simple text by age 10 – in the Philippines in 2021 reached a new high of 90 percent. The report was released in November 2021. It was already high in 2019 – 69.5 percent. The reason for the very high incidence of learning poverty was the shift from face-to-face classes to blended learning when schools closed due to the pandemic.

There’s a lot of work to be done to change the high incidence of reading disability. Community programs can do much to help teach children how to read — and then, to keep reading.