The Rewards of Reading
Like eating, reading is one of life’s activities that simultaneously yields both pleasure and benefit. When we chomp down on a three-way chimichanga, the sensations of texture, temperature, and taste reward us right then. No one needs to confirm the results; from our own personal taste buds, we know immediately that the bite is satisfying. Any attempt to change our mind is a waste of words. In addition to the obvious pleasure, our digestive system now turns the agreeable mixture of beans, beef, lettuce, onions, and tortilla into nutrients that keep us going. Benefits automatically follow the pleasing meal—energy and good health—but the primary reason for lifting a fork is the immediate reward of tasting.
Similarly, immediate reward is the one dependable criterion for determining why people choose to read. Beyond that, it is impossible to predict how a particular reader will be affected by print, as illustrated by the following actual incidents:
- Conventional wisdom says that a reader must comprehend a certain percentage of written material for reading to be successful, yet 3-year-old Bobby Morgan, whose parents read to him regularly, got up early to spend time with issues of National Geographic, which he preferred to picture books. His parents knew that he was comprehending only a fraction of the material, but he continued to spend hour after hour with the magazine.
- Common sense indicates that we seek comfortable surroundings when engaging in a long activity such as extended reading, yet Sean, a college student, drove to the bookstore on a snowy day to buy a new book and decided to spend a few minutes looking it over in his car before heading home. Time passed, and the sun set. To continue reading, Sean had to hold the book to the window so the lights from the parking lot would shine onto the page. Four hours later, he started his chilled car for the drive to his apartment.
- Educational practice says that the difficulty of a text should be matched to individual reading abilities, yet Bill, a junior high student with second-grade reading skills, chose a book far beyond his tested level. A part of his school day was spent in intensified reading instruction in a lab setting, with the last half-hour devoted to uninterrupted individual reading. Educator Dan Fader watched Bill during his 30 minutes of reading time until the bell sounded. “Still absorbed in his reading, Bill closed the book, glanced at the cover, placed the book in his bag, and started for the door. Intrigued by this 13-year-old second-grade reader, I crossed his path at the door and walked with him as I asked, ‘What are you reading?’ ‘Jaws.’ ‘Is it good?’ ‘Yeah!’ ‘But isn’t it hard?’ ‘Sure it’s hard, but it’s worth it!’” (Fader, 1976, p. 236).
© ______ 2008, Allyn & Bacon, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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