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Reading: The Most Important Academic Skill

Updated: Mar 10, 2022

Research has shown a strong correlation between reading and vocabulary knowledge. Thereby, children who have developed vocabulary skills are usually proficient readers. This goes hand in hand, as the greatest way to increase one’s vocabulary is to read!Reading is the most important academic skill.

What came first, the chicken or the egg? Actually, who cares? However, this is my sentiment to listening to educational reformers (deformers?) who seem to think the sky is falling on our educational system. It’s the Chicken Little scenario.

Newsflash! The sky is not falling. When adjusted for poverty levels, the United States outperforms all other nations, which educational reformers like to compare us to (i.e. Finland, South Korea, etc.) However, if people want to see children further excel in the world, beyond solving the United States poverty epidemic, I have a much easier solution. Get a book in every child’s hand and then:

  • read it with them

  • encourage the child to read on their own

  • continue this process with more and more books

Without a doubt, reading is the most important academic skill to master; or become at the very least proficient.

Be Careful with the Wonders of Technology

As the corporate world continues to try to get their hands into the educational world, too many people are becoming dazzled by iPads in the classroom, more computers, more smart phones, an application for every occasion, etc. Overall, all of the bells and whistles mean nothing if a child cannot read. The true essence is the “skill” of reading; not just the process. By truly developing a child’s reading skill, they will be able to work with and comprehend any topic or content put in front of them (i.e. math, science, history, etc.) Furthermore, as the world continues to race into technical oblivion, the fact of the matter is that nearly all of the information provided on the internet is in the written word. The subsidiary skills which reading provides, such as writing, speaking, prediction, and critical thinking cross barriers into all academic regions.

For example, Bill Gates touts that all children should learn to code. That’s great but without literacy development, no HTML course in the world is going to work. So, as education reformers continually spout that we must have our children college and career ready for the everchanging job market, good old reading should be at the top of everybody’s priority list.

What About Math?

Conversely, I’m sure one of the main counterpoints to reading being the number one academic priority is the almighty math. While I agree that mathematics is extremely important, with the inability to read numbers, symbols, and words . . . it’s a moot point. Furthermore, standardized tests, such as the ACT, rely heavily on mathematical story problems; hence reading is still the top dog. In addition, reading brings the abstract to life. By one’s improving reading skills, it enhances their ability to work through abstract mathematical concepts.

What About Science?

So, what about mighty math’s cousin, Sir science? Yes, science is an imperative academic skill, as well. Yet again, reading builds a sense of wonder and an immense knowlege base, which allows children to be astute and inquisitive . . . to be scientific. Any time a child asks a question, they’re basing it on background information they’ve gathered elsewhere. Why does my foot tingle when it falls asleep? How come dad snores? Why do I have to eat my vegetables? These questions can and do go on forever. In fact, science applications require a large amount of written text. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (our nation’s report card), proficient writers read in excess to what they actually write. Hence, phenomenal writers read more than they write!

Overall, to enable our children to become the career professionals they will strive to be, reading is paramount to their success. As adults, educators, and parents, we owe it to our children every opportunity to learn to love the process of reading. If nothing else, reading allows our children to develop a healthy dose of pragmatic thinking . . . knowing “how to” do things. It’s no secret that two of the most used words in Google searches are “how to”. Therefore, encourage our children to excel in reading and allow this wonderful concept to work in harmony with the science and mathematical applications of the world. Then it becomes a very powerful trio!

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