By the Numbers: The Importance of Reading

Have you ever said (or heard someone say), “I’m so bad at math?”

I’m sure you’ve heard it from a bunch of people. It easily rolls off the tongue when you’re trying to figure out how much to tip, estimate the square footage of your living room, or when your kid wants to know how many minutes there are in eight years for some reason. While the numbers bump around in your brain, you say the almost automatic disclaimer: “I’m terrible at math.”

Now let’s say someone gives you a challenging piece of text. Maybe it’s from an advanced textbook, some hardcore classic liturature, or a professional journal with a bunch of field-specific jargon that you’re not familiar with. Would you ever say, “Ugh, I’m so bad at reading.”?

No? Yeah, me either.

This question was posed to me a few months ago, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. No one I know would easily admit they have difficulty reading anything; they’d never laugh and make jokes about how much they struggle. Spelling, maybe, but not reading. It shows how deeply ingrained it is in our culture that Reading Struggles = Very Bad.

It doesn’t matter if it’s actually true.

It’s true because nearly everyone buys into it.

This belief, or ideology, is so deep, that people with reading challenges are stigmatized by society and have long-lasting emotional issues. To illustrate this point, let's look at a few facts:

  1. According to the American Federation of Teachers, “Teaching students to read by the end of third grade is the single most important task assigned to elementary schools. Those who learn to read with ease in the early grades have a foundation on which to build new knowledge. Those who do not are doomed to repeated cycles of frustration and failure.”
  2. 43% of Americans with the lowest literacy skills live in poverty, and 70% have no job or a part-time job. Only 5% of Americans with strong literacy skills live in poverty.
  3. 75% of inmates in America’s prisons can’t read above the 4th grade level.
  4. Students that have difficulty reading have lower self-confidence and lower self-esteem, which, many times, leads to behavior problems and depression.

In short, people who have trouble reading are basically shortchanged with everything they encounter. learn more about this important issue, and what teachers and instructors can do about it, be sure to check out Dr. Therese Kiley’s insightful learning module: Every Professor is a Teacher of Reading.

This in-depth course provides a brief history on reading instruction, discusses the five components of reading, why students might struggle with reading, and how to intervene. Also included are resources on writing, spelling, ELL, and more.

Interested in reading more? Simply log in using your institution's method of access, and click the included links to begin learning. (Not a Hoonuit by Atomic Learning customer? No problem - gain instant 7-day trial access.)

1, attributed to the America Federation of Teachers
2, attributed to the National Bureau of Economic Research
3, attributed to the U.S. Department of Justice. Rand Report: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education

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