Why is reading important?
The greatest accomplishment of many early elementary students is arguably learning to read. Though all students are taught a plethora of other subjects and skills in elementary school, not all students hone and use these skills in their college and career paths: athletes rarely need a deep understanding of higher-level arithmetic, writers typically do not need a deep understanding of chemical kinetics, electrical engineers do not need a deep understanding of music theory, etc. However, all students, regardless of intended college or career path, can benefit greatly from gaining literacy.

Reading is an essential component of education and nearly all careers; nearly all relevant information is consumed through text – whether in the form of a textbook for a student, a peer-reviewed scientific journal for a chemist, a Supreme Court case for a lawyer, or even a dining menu or bill for a waitron. Moreover, skilled readers are able to learn related languages with greater ease than their less skilled peers – for example, Spanish speakers typically find learning Italian and Portuguese straightforward (relative to learning an unrelated language) since exposure to and familiarity with Spanish texts simultaneously promotes understanding of similar languages. Reading allows for knowledge production, through reading nonfiction texts, and is central to most forms of nonverbal communication (including email and instant messaging). Additionally, reading serves as a form of relaxing escapism and entertaining pastime. Because day-to-day readers are exposed to text at young ages, reading proves to be an important skill that requires active practice over a long period of time. Like driving, if one wishes to be skilled at reading, practice is necessary until it becomes second nature. And although there exists no reader’s license comparable to a driver’s license, reading is utilized arguably much more.

How should I practice?
The most effective way to practice reading is, unsurprisingly, by simply reading. Students learning to read should aim to be able to read texts of all types: picture books and chapter books, as well as more quotidian texts including newspapers and magazines. Reading local newspapers, such as the Lubbock Avalanche Journal, also has the additional benefit of familiarizing the reader with local newsworthy happenings, and reading past or online newspapers can help the reader understand past events, faraway events, or even local events through an outside perspective. On the other hand, magazines can help readers foster their interests; avid science students can read science-related magazines, including Scientific American and Air & Space, business-minded students can read Forbes and Business Insider, etc. Note, though, that ordinary nonfiction books can also serve the purposes of newspapers and magazines; however, the main benefit of magazines over other text mediums is the combination of the certainty of having consistent access to relevant articles (which are updated periodically, whereas many nonfiction books are one-offs or out of date) and the freedom to select reading material based on interests (whereas multiple copies of any given newspaper are the exact same, and therefore unattuned to individual interests). These text mediums aside, picture books can also excellently serve a particular audience – typically an audience of children in the early stages of learning to read – and chapter books can serve audiences of all age groups and reading levels. Note that audiobooks are also incredibly useful for some students, but this works most favorably in conjunction with text, especially for first-time readers.

Where should I find reading material?
For most families, there are several options to decide between when finding reading material for a reading child. Families can opt to acquire reading material from home or online – whether in the form of purchased or gifted books (both physical and online), magazine or newspaper subscriptions (again, physical and online), etc. Many parents utilize search tools on online shopping sites like Amazon and audiobook/ebook services like Audible, Overdrive, and Libby to find books that comfortably suit their children’s interests and reading levels; these options are especially popular currently given the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. Additionally, families can also visit local bookstores, including used bookstores, to find appropriate reading material. For many families, though, libraries are ideal sources for reading material; at both school libraries and public libraries, parents can take input from librarians, and at school libraries, parents can also take input from a given child’s teacher to make a thoughtful decision. Additionally, library services are free and open to everyone; libraries also allow book-borrowers to read newspapers, magazines, ebooks, and audiobooks, and they provide a peaceful and relaxed environment to read in. Furthermore, libraries occasionally host events or services (including read-alongs and free tutoring, courtesy of Robin’s Nest). Though many libraries and bookstores have struggled given the ongoing pandemic, both remain viable options if proper face covering and social distancing procedures are followed to ensure that students are able to safely read without fear of sickness.

Reading is an extraordinarily valuable skill that can only be trained by practicing reading. Whether individual families choose to practice reading using ebook, bookstore, or library services, reading proves to be the arguably most important skill taught in pre-secondary school. Below is a list of these services to help students and parents practice and excel at reading.

Reading services mentioned in the article
Audible (paid audiobook service, free trial)
Amazon Books (online book shopping)
Overdrive (free ebooks and audiobooks)
Overdrive for LISD students (free ebooks and audiobooks)
Libby (free ebooks and audiobooks)
Lubbock Avalanche Journal (Lubbock newspaper, free online)
Scientific American (science magazine, free online)
Air & Space (astronomy and aeronautics magazine, free online)
Forbes (business magazine, free online)
Business Insider (business magazine, free online)

Lubbock Libraries
General information: https://ci.lubbock.tx.us/departments/library/about-us
Mahon Main Library: 1306 9th Street, Lubbock, TX 79401
Godeke Branch Library: 5034 Frankford Avenue, Lubbock, TX 79424
Groves Branch Library: 5520 19th Street, Lubbock, TX 79407
Patterson Branch Library 1836 Parkway Drive, Lubbock, TX 79403

Thanks for reading!
This article was written by Aetizaz Sameer, a head writer at Robin’s Nest.

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