Mrs. Mason was the “perfect reading ambassador,” Sandra Martin-Chang recalled as an early reading role model, her high school English and drama teacher said. “She encouraged me to read great books with great storylines. We read The Handmaid’s Tale and it was fantastic… We imagined it and then thought about how to stage it and bring it to life.”
Today, Martin-Chang is a professor of education at Concordia University, researching how reading storybooks and novels affects cognitive development.
In a new study published in Reading & Writing, she and her colleagues found that students who read outside of class for fun (such as delving into fantasy novels or spy thrillers) were less likely to read than those who read primarily to complete their studies. There are significant differences between. Not only is there a strong association between reading for fun and better language skills, but students who dislike reading often attribute their negative attitudes to their experiences in the classroom. The researchers found that an overemphasis on analyzing the constituent bases of texts and reading just to absorb information has a psychological cost, as students disengage from voluntary reading.
For the study, Martin-Chang and her colleagues surveyed 200 college students, asking them about their interest in reading, how often they read, what motivated them, and what experiences helped shape their attitudes toward reading. They were also asked to name authors they had read in the past – an indication of how many books they had read. The young people then completed a series of tests to test their reading ability.
“We found that children tended to have more positive experiences in elementary school and then dropped out in high school,” Martin-Chang said. While children in kindergarten and early elementary school tend to read picture books as they develop their reading skills—often sharing experiences with adults—until high school, reading styles change with the expectations of students who read more of a steady diet of complex informative text. At some point in this transition, the love for reading seems to be fading.
In the study, 35% of students gave a specific reason: they disliked reading because “being asked to analyze books in high school made reading less comfortable.”
But analyzing the elements of good writing—how persuasion works, how figurative language enhances a text—is critical to teaching children to reach their full expressive potential, Martin-Chang isn’t suggesting we should just read for fun. “Ability is very, very important. We can’t jump right into books that kids love without teaching them how to do it right,” she said. She likens reading to a balanced diet: “Those who say chocolate is good don’t recommend excluding it from everything else.” Mainly focused on analyzing texts and gathering information — a shift is seen in middle and high school — Can send the signal that reading is just a useful endeavor, robbing it of its powerful connection to human imagination, passion, and creativity, and making it less popular.
If we’re going to keep reading voluntarily in middle and high school, we have to take pleasure in reading as seriously as academic reading.
Increase their options
For Martin-Chang, reading for pleasure isn’t a distraction from academic rigor—it’s a satisfying form of cognitive exercise that’s both fun and intellectual.
“We don’t just want kids to exercise in gym class, we want them to continue exercising at home,” Martin-Chang said. “The same goes for reading.
At school, we want to show them something we want them to master, go home and continue to learn in their free time.”
Even light reading has many benefits, improving verbal and creative skills, developing our empathy skills, and even breaking down prejudices against stigmatized groups—all skills that come as readers get used to living in an unfamiliar world, developed by seeing things and thinking from new perspectives, about how a series of events can lead to unforeseen outcomes.
But reading for fun—especially books that aren’t classical or have no literary prestige—is generally considered less useful. “It’s a false dichotomy,” Martin-Chang said. “People feel like we either let kids be creative and do what they want and we give them choices, or we take things seriously and they’re great and they’re good students. Serious or fun. And that dichotomy The law is completely misguided.”
For this reason, providing students with a rich and varied reading diet can make a difference. “Provides more options,” Martin-Chang said. Introduce students to Romeo and Juliet, but allow them to read The Fault in the Stars as well. Have them read comics and manga, sports literature and drama, science fiction and horror. In other words, it’s clear that if we want students to develop literacy skills, they should read dozens of texts they love, relate to, or feel inspired by, rather than force them to read because it’s assigned to them.
While the development of children’s literacy skills begins at home, teachers play an extremely important role in encouraging students to love reading, as Martin-Chang made clear when training student teachers.
“People either talk about teachers who love to read, encourage them to read and set the flames on, or they talk about teachers who are the complete opposite,” Martin-Chang said. “They’ll talk about teachers who have taken what was once pleasant and reduced it, or they’ll talk about teachers who themselves don’t seem to like reading or who make them feel less like readers.”
In the study, Martin-Chang points to research on student teachers showing that “more than half feel that reading has little or no fun.” Teachers often attribute their disinterest to experiences at school, Martin-Chang and her colleagues called the finding “particularly concerning” and hinted at the periodicity of reading behavior. “Teachers have enormous power to influence students’ attitudes toward reading,” concluded the researchers.
So part of Martin-Chang’s mission is to convince teachers — and everyone else — of the immense value in giving students more reading options, including books that seem rampant or lack intellectual value.
In class, Martin-Chang says, show a love of reading—going beyond grammar and meaning into the world of narrative on the page. Emphasize choices for students to read and share in class. Teachers share their strategies for encouraging choice: expand your classroom library beyond the traditional literary canon and make sure it includes books that reflect students’ backgrounds, cultures, experiences, and passions. Provide them with plenty of non-graded opportunities to reflect on their reading: to ensure they read without grade pressure, team children as reading responsibility partners; make books lively, dramatic, and make them act as scenes; build a thriving reader community, start a book club or book tasting. Avoid routine or mechanical exercises like journaling, which can give the impression that reading is a chore that needs to be done and then quickly put on hold.
If books are not normally part of your course, you can still show interest in what students are reading by connecting with the course. For example, start a science experiment with references to Harry Potter, or use dystopian fiction to discuss totalitarianism, propaganda, or human rights.
“Teaching kids to read is important,” Martin-Chang said. “Once we do that, we have to make it valuable. We have to give them a reason. Once they get up that mountain, we have to give them a view.”
About the article
“There is no friend more faithful than a book,” said American author Ernest Hemingway. Books inspire your imagination, offer comfort in grief, and open up your world. The importance of the reading habit is inextricably linked to professional success, as it opens up new experiential minds and opens up new avenues of knowledge.
In this article, we discussed the benefits of reading for fun.
Digital Entrepreneur, Website Builder, SEO Consultant and Professional. I have 12 years experience in Digital Marketing, And this is the future of Business