Insights from the School of Education and Social Policy at Merrimack College

It seems so simple. Of course, students should learn to read. That’s been understood for generations. No one is going to argue against the importance of student literacy.

However, many don’t understand just how important student literacy and reading are to student development, starting at a very young age.  The American Pediatrics Association reports that reading when young – even infants being read to by their parents – increases academic success down the road.

However, many children enter kindergarten without the skills needed to read well. Helping students bridge that skills gap falls to those who have trained to become elementary school teachers. They play a significant role in the development of young minds in this vital area.

How important?

Here are some of the ways student literacy impacts a young mind.

Self Esteem

This might be the most important area of all. The sooner students develop reading skills, the more they gain ground in the areas listed below. That leads to more assurance in how they speak and write, as well as giving them the confidence of an expanded knowledge base. When students start at an early age to read about diverse people, distant places, and historical events, they become more creative and open. Also, those who have read a lot will naturally be asked to answer more questions – another confidence builder for a young student.

Improved Concentration

An emphasis on reading and student literacy helps develop higher levels of focus and concentration. It also forces the reader to sort things out in their own mind – including topics that might not be familiar to them at all (Paris at the end of World War II, for example, or another planet in a science fiction novel). This type of concentration on one topic – rather than trying to do many things at once – leads to better focus even after the book is put down.

Critical and Analytical Thinking Skills

The classic here is when a young reader becomes absorbed with a mystery book – Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew were examples for generations of Americans – and manages to solve the mystery in her head before the books reveal it. That’s a simple example of how reading helps students develop better critical and analytical skills, something that carries over even after they have put the book down.

Stronger Memory Skills

Think about reading. Even an elementary age child with a relatively simple book must keep in mind a group of characters, the setting, and past actions. Reading helps to strengthen memory retention skills. That’s a powerful tool for young students – and older adults, as well.

Expanded Vocabulary

How many times do we all search for just the right word to express what we’re trying to say? Readers do that less. They have a larger vocabulary, and the words that young readers learn in a book will eventually make their way into their speech.

These are some of the most powerful ways that reading is important for student success. For those who have decided to teach children at the elementary school level, the impact they make on students in this vital area can resonate throughout the rest of their lives.

These are some of the most powerful ways that reading is important for student success. For those who have decided to teach children at the elementary school level, the impact they make on students in this vital area can resonate throughout the rest of their lives.