Importance of Reading Skills

by Vicki Hoss

Whether you are engaged in a novel, pouring over a newspaper or a just looking at a sign, reading skills allow you to interpret and become engaged in the world around you. According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, “Reading is the single most important skill necessary for a happy, productive and successful life.” Developing those skills takes active engagement from an early age.

Reading to Learn

Children today have many opportunities to gather information. Books are not the only tools children are exposed to. Using a smartphone, reading from an electronic tablet or researching on a computer has opened the floodgates for finding and accessing information. A student with the reading skills necessary to access and use information is not just learning to read but also reading to learn. With proper reading skills, he or she can explore topics ranging from how spiders spin silky webs to the details of the Wright brothers' first flight in North Carolina.

Creating Lifelong Readers

Fluency, decoding and vocabulary development are needed to comprehend written material. Readers use these skills to interpret and understand written words on a page. They read often from a wide variety of materials. They read to find out more about the world in which they live and use that information to improve their lives. Lifelong readers think critically about what they’ve read and make connections to their own lives. They apply their skills in language and writing development.

Long-Term Implications

Reading skills are "essential to function in our society," according to Duane Alexander, director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, speaking before a congressional subcommittee in 2002. Alexander stated that many children living in poverty lack the skills that will allow them to become lifelong readers. A person with low reading ability may not be able to read signs, understand medical information or prescription directions or apply for jobs that require basic skills tests. Per a survey conducted by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a child's third grade reading proficiency is an indicator of future achievement. If a student is not developing adequate reading and writing skills by that age, he or she is more likely to encounter "ongoing academic difficulties in school, failure to graduate from high school on time and chances of succeeding economically later in life."

Successful Students

Whether the author is writing to inform, persuade, give directions or entertain, he or she is communicating to his or her audience. A person who can read has the ability to empathize with and connect to the characters in a story. A reader builds background knowledge about many different subjects that he or she can later use. Students with the necessary reading skills can later develop writing and language skills necessary for academic and professional success.

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