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Monday, April 13, 2015

Importance of reading: Battle of the Books

    Last Friday I was a judge as a Board Member of the Friends of the Library at the 2015 Battle of the Books at Wilde Lake High School.  The picture above shows the 5th grade students who competed in the contest by attempting to answer 50 questions on this year's selected books. About one third of all 5th graders in Howard County schools participated in this year's Battle of the Books.

     One of the teams from Cradlerock Elementary School won this year's competition at Wilde Lake.  Competition was also held with school teams at 5 other high schools Friday evening.  This competition is the result of a partnership between the Howard County Schools and the Howard County Library.
     So why hold this type of event?  In a county that has a extremely high use of libraries and a highly literate population we may not realize how independent reading is uncommon in much of our country.  In a 2003 survey by The Jenkins Group the low level of reading in American families was startling.  Here is what they found:

• One-third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
• 42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.
• 80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
• 70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
• 57 percent of new books are not read to completion.

    The importance of independent reading in academic achievement has been shown in a study by the American Association of School Librarians that came to this finding: 

     "..... there is a strong correlation between independent reading and general academic achievement. Independent reading boosts vocabulary, reading comprehension, verbal skills and achievement-test scores. Moreover, early independent reading can create a snowball effect that expands knowledge. A 2011 study published in "Child Development," for example, found that children with higher reading test scores tended to do more independent reading. Independent reading in and of itself boosts reading test scores, so it could be that reading begets more reading."

     On a personal note my becoming an independent reader in 6th grade changed my life.   Discovering the pleasure of reading led me in directions that define who I am today and has given my life a richness that I never take for granted. Participating in events like the Battle of the Books is one small way I try to give back for what reading has given me.


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