The Importance of Reading
The scholarship on reading is rich and consistent.
Everyone seems to agree that reading is important. There have been challenges to what we read, how often we need to read, and how deeply we should read. But very few, if any, scholars have successfully argued that reading is not important.
Everyone seems to agree that we should teach reading. There have been challenges to how we should teach reading, how we should ascertain reading competency, and what we should read to and with children. But very few, if any, scholars have successfully argued that we should not teach reading.
The future of reading has been called into question though. The digitalization of our media has moved us from waiting in lines for the release of a new book in a series to opening our tablets. Built-in screen readers now easily switch webpages and e-books from something you read silently to something that is read aloud to you. The prevalence of podcasts has reemphasized the oral tradition of our ancient ancestors. The explosion of TEDTalks, YouTube, TikTok, and other video platforms will only continue to move us away from a reliance on the written word to share information.
While I would like to argue that reading will never lose its importance, I realize such a statement is really about my own love for the written word. My own joy in the smell of an old book and the feel of its weight in my hands. And most importantly, I realize that statement partly lives in the past and the present. Reading serves an immensely important role in communication that has not yet been replaced by any other medium.
That does not mean that reading is not changing. Over the past year, we have seen a closer partnership between the written word and digital communication. Teachers have paired short videos of their lectures with written directions for assignments. Students have uploaded and submitted hundreds of handwritten documents. Workplaces have moved to collaborative documents and digital file-sharing spaces to complete tasks that would have been done in person. The written word is not disappearing, it is being transformed to cohabitate with digital communications.
This transformation can be empowering and demonstrate our continued need to teach reading. Reading is a medium of expression that continues to shape our exchange of ideas. It works hand-in-hand with digital media to create a richer learning experience. And that, my friends, is the value of reading at its core. Reading enriches our lives.