Reading is a very critical skill that many can take for granted. I never thought of the difficulties being illiterate could cause until I first moved abroad. Upon arrival in China I discovered, something I had not mentally prepared myself for, that I was in fact now illiterate in terms of the local language. Many Things have changed since I first arrived. There is a lot more English writing on signage and in print (menus, newsletters, magazines, etc.) but there was next to none ten years ago and it really opened my eyes to the true gift being able to read really is.
This experience has helped me a great deal in the classroom. A lot of TEFL teachers focus solely on the verbal and listening aspects of the language but I firmly believe if we are to be successful masters of our craft, teaching, then we must teach all aspects of the English language to our students. This will ensure they have the best chances of success in learning the language and will help them greatly with future lessons once they have moved on from your class.
Why is reading so important? Here are a few examples to point you in the right direction.
1: While searching for a job reading is absolutely essential, as most will require it. With emails, memos, task lists, etc. you will have a hard time performing many duties without the ability to read the expected task on hand. If you do not have a good range of vocabulary and an understanding of the written word, you easily be hindered from achieving your desired accomplishments in the workplace.
2: Reading helps your overall understanding of the language. Reading with help you identify sight words, understand spelling and give you the ability to use phonetics to speak words you have never heard spoken by simply sounding them out, and reading teaches you that ability.
3: Education and information is power. If you are illiterate, you will not be able to research and answer many of your own questions. In many situations you will have to take someone else`s word for it, and that can keep a person down in many ways. Let`s say you want o apply for a new position in your company, if you can not read the application form you may have missed a specific format they wanted your CV presented in. You sent it looking very unprofessional, in terms of what they asked for, and ten other colleagues handed in exactly what they were looking for. With reading, you don`t have to rely on what others tell you, and trust them blindly, you can find all the answers out for yourself.
4: It develops the brain. The only way to strengthen you brain, keeping it sharp and fast, is by keeping it stimulated, and reading does just that! Imagine your brain working like a muscle; the bicep perhaps. If you want you bicep stronger and bigger you are going to go to the gym, and lift a lot of weights on a regular basis; curl after curl, day after day. If you want to keep your mind strong and keep it growing, just keep reading. Everyday.
5: One of the biggest attractions to reading is the way it heightens our creativity. When we read, not only do we take in the content, but also we stop from time to time and really digest the matter. We ask ourselves questions about it and draw conclusions to our questions, all based on what we have read while we continue to read it. We even plan out in our heads what we would like to see next and anticipate if we are going to be correct or not. Whether the author`s intention or not, reading always gets our own creative juices flowing, and what more could you want from your students then to be a literate and creative force in the life ahead of them. After all, isn`t that why we teach?
If I were to explain all the benefits of reading, this article would rival War & Peace in size. There are figuratively millions. Do you have any not mentioned here? Let us know in the comments below!