March is Reading Month. In most schools around the United States teachers will invite parents, grandparents, business leaders, and police chiefs into the classroom to impart the importance of reading to children.
Why is reading so important? It’s because at every phase of life, reading helps us learn, grow, and secure the information we need to succeed.
When adults read to very young children, it helps build the connections in the kids’ brains. This forms a solid base for language acquisition.
Reading ensures academic success in elementary school because from pre-school until third grade, children are “learning to read.” Then, from 4th grade on, children are using that reading skill set to “read to learn.” If a child is not proficient by that important third grade mark, they will struggle for much of their remaining years of schooling.
As teenagers, reading continues to be important in school. It also helps teens apply for and acquire a job.
Reading also helps adults broaden their understanding of the world and different peoples.
For many, reading offers pure enjoyment, whether it’s murder mysteries, Harry Potter, or learning of the explorations of the North or South Pole.
And reading can save lives.
Perhaps the most compelling story about the power of reading comes to us from southeastern India. There was a young woman whose family decided on the day she was born that she would become a devadasi, a bride of a Hindu goddess.
At 14 years of age, she left her family and at a special ceremony was dedicated to the goddess. As a devadasi, she was expected to beg for food and money and to offer her body for prostitution. After several years, a local pastor in her community invited her to an adult literacy class where she learned to read. And she began attending a local church where she learned the story of Rahab, a prostitute, who served God. Reading the story of Rahab changed the young woman’s life. She learned of Christ’s love for her, and she was then able to end the forced prostitution of her youth.
Reading builds minds, broadens our lives and our horizons, but also profoundly changes and saves lives.
About the author: Amanda Price is the Chairperson of the Michigan Literacy Commission. She is also a former member of the Michigan State House of Representatives. As a legislator, she chaired the state education committee and authored legislation on improving reading skills in Michigan.