Reading Makes You Smart

My childhood favorites

Whenever I see a kid reading a book — or anything for that matter — the reader in me bubbles up, and a sales pitch starts welling up inside, and then it just comes out, unbidden, like a burp. Here’s pretty much how it goes.

Me: Reading makes you smart, you know!

Child:

Me: If you read a lot, you’ll get really big brains.

Child: (smiles)

Me: Make sure you learn to read really, really well. You’ll get all As in school. And then you’ll get into a good college, (getting crazy look in my eye) and then you can do whatever you want with your life. You can be anything you want to be.

Child:

Me: It’s true. Trust me.

A while back, I wondered whether or not I was in fact telling kids the truth. I mean, sure, it’s a well-known fact that the more literate you are the better you do in school. But I couldn’t quote statistics or anything like that.

So I did a little research. You might want to take your blood pressure meds before you read what I found.

<50%

Percentage of families who read regularly to their kindergarteners

3 to 4 times more

Likelihood that children will drop out of school early if they don’t have some basic literary skills before entering the classroom

67%

Percentage of kids who will end up either in jail or on welfare if they can’t read proficiently by 4th grade

85%

Percentage of young people who interface with juvenile court who are functionally illiterate

34 million

Number of U.S. adults who function at below average literacy levels (unable to fill out a job application or read a prescription label, for example)

$20 billion

Cost per year of illiteracy on taxpayers and businesses. For example, U.S. businesses spend approximately $300 million per year in remedial literacy training for employees

$19,915

Average annual salary of someone without a high school diploma

Does reading make you smart? I think so, and even if these stats don’t directly correlate to intelligence levels, they do correlate to what we all consider “success” in life. So, I’m going to continue making a conscious effort to praise kids up and down when I see them reading. You try it. Make a big fuss over kids when you see them crack open a book. Show them how much you respect their decision to spend their time reading. Who knows the impact your well-timed compliment can have on a kid’s sense of self and outlook on life.

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