by Jeff Wilhelm
Why don’t students read? Most teachers have the goal of promoting students’ lifelong love of reading. But why? And what can teachers and parents and librarians do to promote pleasure reading?
In our book Reading Unbound, Michael Smith and I argue that promoting pleasure reading is a civil rights issue. Data from major longitudinal studies show that pleasure reading in youth is the most explanatory factor of both cognitive progress and social mobility over time (e.g., Sullivan & Brown, 2013 [PDF]; Guthrie, et al, 2001; and Kirsch, et al, 2002 [PDF]). Pleasure reading is a more powerful predictor than even parental socioeconomic status and educational attainment.
So if we want our students to actualize their full potential as human beings and their capacity to participate in a democracy, and if we want to overcome social inequalities, we must actively promote pleasure reading in our schools, classrooms, and homes.