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The many benefits of independent reading

Reading independently, with friends near or far, or even with school clubs or online communities is a powerful part of growing and learning. When you read fiction, you enter a new world, a new community, and a new perspective that allows you to increase your own awareness and empathy within the world around you. American author Theodore Giesel (famously known as Dr. Seuss) wrote it best: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you go.”

The benefits of independent reading are plentiful. Reading encourages you to think critically, question the world, and be more culturally conscious. Studies of independent reading not only highlight its importance but also incorporate the benefits and effects it has on each individual learner in school, at home, and in life. While independent reading is one major part of a differentiated and modern approach to education, it is by no means new to the world of education. Many studies and theories stem from practicing teachers who use these innovative approaches to help their students acquire a variety of proven benefits. There are so many things students can gain from reading independently – check out this list for some of the most impactful effects of reading.

Abundant language acquisition

There is strong evidence that links reading for pleasure with educational or academic success. Reading improves literacy in any language. Whether students are reading a book in their first language or a new, target language, they will gain from independent reading. Students acquire more vocabulary by reading new books than they would by simply memorizing lists of words. In fact, according to researchers, vocabulary acquisition is directly correlated to the amount of minutes students read each night.

Stronger analytical and critical thinking

Reading new books is a way to encounter new worlds and new perspectives. When reading, students use their identities, past experiences, ideas, opinions, and values to interpret texts in their own way. But sometimes, stories shape our perspectives, too. Finding a great book to connect with on an emotional level can challenge the schema and prejudices that may already exist in our minds. When reading, students are constantly connecting, making inferences and questioning what they are reading within both the book’s reality and their own reality.

Better writing skills

Writing and reading go hand in hand. Students don’t always need to annotate their books or write analytical responses to what they read for pleasure. But, as a reader, students take in both the content of the story and the way it is written. We may not know it, but while we read we notice the proper grammatical phrases, the similes, or the symbolism throughout a text. Students may start noticing these things or patterns in the way they communicate and write on their own. The more we read, the better we get at reading and writing – both of which are important life skills.

Improved focus and concentration

Sustained silent reading is a really fantastic practice. The more engaged students are with a text, the more a book draws them in and captures their interest. As we practice reading, we get less distracted by our phones, the things going on around us, or the to-do list swirling in our heads. Being fully immersed in a book is a way to practice staying focused on one thing at a time. Improved concentration on a book that’s enjoyable to read can be transferred to other tasks that might not be as fun, like homework or studying for an exam.

Stress and anxiety reduction

Most students in this day and age experience a wide variety of mental or emotional health issues, one of the most common being anxiety. No matter how much stress students have due to academics, personal relationships, or university applications, reading can reduce the anxieties of everyday life. Reading helps students know and understand that they are not alone. Novels where narrators or characters are experiencing similar emotions help students to recognize and improve their overall personal, emotional, and mental well-being.

Increased empathy towards others

Getting into the mind of a character is a great way for students to feel new emotions and have new experiences. Reading allows students to understand different perspectives and walk in someone else’s shoes. Even if the characters are fictional, the experiences they have, troubles they face, and emotions they feel, can feel real. This helps students become more empathetic and considerate people.

Higher open-mindedness and global thinking

There are so many different books in the world that can help us to become more open-minded. Books can open our worlds in ways we never imagine possible. They can take us to fantastical worlds, other countries, other schools, other homes – places that truly expand our worldviews. In an international community like EF Academy, students have had so many incredible experiences already. But it’s important for students to recognize these experiences are influenced by their own unique perspectives. Reading allows them to view the world they think they already know from a variety of different vantage points.

A great source of entertainment and community

Many people like to buy books – but remember that we can find lots of books and reading material for free. Take advantage of local libraries, where you can borrow books for a few weeks at a time. Students who live in a residential school like EF Academy can also borrow books from teachers, residential advisors and friends. Reading can be a fun way for students to build camaraderie and community among the peers and adults surrounding them. And in an international community, sharing ideas, perspectives and stories is an awesome way to get to know new friends and broaden horizons.

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