Tuesday, 14 October 2008

The power of reading

Stephen D. Krashen in "The Power of Reading" expresses that society demands more reading skills than it used to. Everything today is sign posted... with words. Supermarket aisles, road signs, notices on shops. People communicate through emails, chat sites, instant messaging and social networking, all require a reasonable command of words. Even text messages, with their coded short cuts. I know two individuals under the age thirty who disdain textish and write theirs in proper grammatical and sometimes lyrical English. According to Krashen extensive reading leads to good literary style and an improved general knowledge.

Children that read over the summer holidays, even if it is a small amount, gain a cumulative effect of increased literacy. Libraries understand the importance of this and for about five or six years there has been national summer reading challenges for children attending libraries. The challenges seem to be increasingly popular and focus staff on providing books and activities for children and younger people. When the Reading Rocket (Derby City Libraries' Children's mobile library) was operational, It took books and the summer reading challenge, out into the deepest parts of inner Derby, where not all our clients participated, but even finished the challenge, but they had books to read. Yesterday I found a book written in 1967 that devotes a chapter to the sort of services a mobile library should provide for children. (Mobile Libraries;- and other public library transport by C R Eastwood) He suggest that libraries with spare vehicles, staff and books (in your dreams Mr Eastwood) during the summer holidays should have a special holiday mobile library. Apparently there were successful schemes in Nottinghamshire, Shropshire and East Suffolk.

Krashen also writes a lot about how reading can help someone develop a second language. Many places that the Reading Rocket visited had children from different countries, parts of Asia, eastern Europe and Africa, all doing very well with English and translating for their parents. He states that children do better when parents read to them, Surely this would also improve the parents literacy. He thinks that if there is more books in a Child's home, they will read more. (page 57 gives more examples). He considers access to public libraries means more reading and crucially, it is the child's own choice of book that matters MORE that what the book is.

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