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[Editorial] Reading Makes Children Smarter

Posted July. 06, 2009 09:59,   


The Culture, Sports and Tourism Ministry conducted last year a survey on how much people read in Korea. The percentage of elementary, middle and high school students who read last year was 89.1 percent, 1.5 percentage points lower than last year’s 90.6 percent. In other words, more than 10 percent of students did not read a book other than a textbook over the past year. The research also showed that the daily number of hours devoted to reading declined as one got older, with elementary school students reading for 52 minutes, those in middle school 38, those in high school 34, and adults a mere 29.

It is a universal truth that books provide an abundant source of knowledge and imagination. Reading requires heavy brain activity unlike watching TV, and thus raises intelligence that leads to stronger national competitiveness and a democratic foundation. Without establishing a sound reading culture, it will be difficult to build a mature knowledge-based society in the 21st century. Reading is especially important for children since books provide mental nourishment and the wisdom of ancient sages and great people, which are critical in forming wholesome perspectives on people and the world. Therefore, reading should become part of everyday life from an early age.

There is no denying that children who love reading show strong academic and leadership skills. World-renowned scientists, politicians and entrepreneurs including many CEOs unanimously agree on the importance of reading. Certain studies have even concluded that reading is a common activity of the wealthy worldwide. For example, when someone asked investment guru Warren Buffet for advice, he said, “Read, read and read.” Buffet is known to read five times more than the average person. His message coincides with that of Korean reading advocate Lee Hi-seok, who said, “Only a reader can become a leader.”

Formal education plays an important role in promoting reading at an early age. More importantly, however, adults must set a good example. Unfortunately, the latest research indicates otherwise. Thirty percent of Korean adults did not read a single book last year, and an annual average of 9,600 won (8 U.S. dollars) was spent on purchasing books, far less than the 32,500 won (26 dollars) spent monthly by each mobile phone user. Korean adults are simply too stingy when it comes to buying books.

Children nothing to learn from parents who force them to read while idling away in front of the television. Instead of sending children to academic institutes this summer, parents should spend time with their children in a library, which will prove more effective in developing logical thinking and creativity than just sending them to private cram schools.