Reading: the passport to the world

The Literacy Evening, Literacy Day, Literacy Week, Reading Week and Reading Night have now become fashionable at this time of the year, every year. And, spurred by the notion of Education Month every October, educators and others are all gung-ho within about the importance of books and the virtues of reading.

Notably expounded among such virtues is the expansion of the child’s vocabulary: the more that pupil or student reads, the more words he or she is exposed to, and will inevitably have in their arsenal of wordage in their everyday expression of self and communication with others. Being articulate and well spoken is of great help in all manner of subject study –– at school or university, and in any any profession in adult life.

Knowing that for now –– and come the future –– a child you can speak to powerhouses, higher-ups and the literati with clarity and confidence will be an enormous boost to his or her self-esteem.

As some school principals have underscored in their individual Literacy activities, competency in and effective comprehension from reading are stepping stones not only to literateness but life success as well. Those who are well read, well spoken, and knowledgeable on a variety of subjects are likely to advance more rapidly in their chosen careers than those with smaller vocabularies and a lack of awareness of literature and global events –– those who are merely content to do just enough to get by.

These critical points can never be overemphasized to our nation’s children, becoming the yearly mantra. So, admittedly, this swish annual ritual in Education Month is not without its benefits to teachers’ charges within the school system.

Reading aloud too, as an added practice, can only enhance one’s speaking ability and competency, and one’s writing fluency.

It comes from the expansion of one’s vocabulary and comprehension, by exposure to well written work and through an appreciation of the nuances, fluidity and styles of expression of varied authors, and the influences they bring to bear on one’s own efforts. One can only learn to craft prose properly, interesting and entertainingly by reading the works of others –– and reading good works aloud crystalizes imagery and the passion for literature.

Reading and writing are very close pals. It is no secret then that poor writers are often even much worse speakers. And there is no lack of them in the communications media and entertainment fraternity of Barbados.

That is why we take with a pinch of salt this growing fad each year of overwhelming our school students with the presence and popularity of radio personalities and pop and other musical genre artists as a means of further interesting them in serious reading. In the first instance, many of these visiting celebrities themselves are not known for any proclivity towards reading, and could hardly name three wholesome books they had read in the calendar year.

The instilling of the practice of reading in our youth must not be preponderated by the showings and musings of the shallow and simplistic under the spurious plea of community outreach. Reading and its efficacy in school are too critical a component in the development of our children and youth to be morphed into a sideshow or cabaret of sorts.

Excellent readers are of focused mind, and will find books (even e-books) to be enduring companions and peers not likely to lead them into temptation –– possibly put them on the path of righteousness.

In our Internet-hooked world, where our attention is tugged at almost simultaneously from a million and one variegated points and sites, and our multitasking becomes a depressant, focus is obsolete. In short time, unless you know where you are specifically bound, you will share your time and space looking up synonyms, checking email, chatting, responding to a Facebook smart Alec, keeping an eye on the latest from Rihanna on Twitter, tracking the smartphone, keeping communication private from your pal looking over your shoulder . . . . The challenges are unconquerable; stress levels can go quite high and your productivity deeply low. Nothing a good book wouldn’t

ameliorate though. On the other hand, when you are consumed by, or subsumed in a good book,

all of your attention is focused on its content, the rest of the world just slinking away. Little time there is to manifest having sex in the classroom, and being a bother to parents and teacher.

These are the benefits of reading which our schools need to make their students aware of all through the school year –– not only melodramatically in Education Month year in, year out. What we need to see next October is the demonstrative culmination of what has transpired in the prior school year, among it glistening examples of well read and remarkably improved articulate students.

We need them urgently for the very near future!

Let us be practical about it: reading is knowledge, and the more knowledge we have, the better equipped we are to take on the challenges confronting us.

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