“Magazines and newspapers have fewer readers,” states Gazeta Mercantil. The Brazilian newspaper reports that delegates in Berlin, Germany, attending the 46th convention of the International Federation of Newspaper Editors were concerned over the growing “lack of interest in reading the printed page and the preference for audiovisual” media.
In the opinion of the president of the Inter-American Society of the Press, Alejandro Junco de la Vega, many have “no awareness of the importance of the printed word . . . Many still believe that television is more relevant.” Horácio Aguirre, director of the newspaper Las Americas in Miami, voices an opinion doubtless shared by many a newspaperman, that a newspaper “presents a much more ample panorama of what is happening in the world.”
The Effect of Literacy on Mothers
Public-health experts have long believed that children in developing lands have a better chance of survival if their mothers are literate—but they have never been able to isolate reading itself as a decisive factor. According to New Scientist magazine, a study carried out in Nicaragua “is the first to demonstrate that educating women has a direct effect on their children’s health.”
The study examined illiterate women who as adults took part in Nicaragua’s massive literacy program between 1979 and 1985. In the late 1970’s, the mortality rate for children of illiterate mothers was about 110 deaths per 1,000 live births. By 1985, the mortality rate for children of mothers who had learned to read in the program dropped to 84 per thousand. Their children were also better nourished. Experts are still uncertain as to why the children of literate mothers are so much better off.
Leisure Reading Makes for Higher Grades
Reading for pleasure contributes more to better grades than “the number of hours spent studying, parents’ education, use of class notes, or computer use,” reports Mexico City’s Milenio newspaper. A study of hundreds of thousands of high-school admission tests indicates that students who dedicate time both to their school studies and to leisure reading are more likely to have success in school.
The books students choose need not be only about school subjects but may include those read for sheer pleasure, such as biographies, books of poems, and books on scientific topics. On the other hand, the report notes that students who watch TV for many hours a day instead of reading tend to have lower grades.
Reading Boosts Memory
How can you improve your memory? “Don’t hope for a miracle,” says Brazil’s Folha Online. “The secret is to put your head to work.” One of the best ways to stimulate your brain is by reading.
How so? Neurologist Ivan Izquierdo says: “The moment a person finishes reading the word ‘tree,’ all the trees that he has ever known during his lifetime pass through his mind in hundredths of a second.” According to Izquierdo, “all of this happens unconsciously.” He believes that this type of mental activity makes our brain less susceptible to diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Neurologist Wagner Gattaz, of the Research Center for Memory Disorders, in São Paulo, Brazil, says: “The more we use our memory, the more we preserve it.”
Reading Program Helps Reduce Crime
In Bradford, England, a government-funded program designed to improve schoolchildren’s reading ability is having dramatic results, reports the British newspaper The Independent.
Not only has the reading program helped to improve reading skills but it has also received credit for helping to reduce crime! “We have related the number of young people breaking into houses directly to the truancy rate,” says John Watson, head of the Better Reading Partnership. “If the children are able to read they are more likely to be interested in what goes on at school and less likely to play truant. Because they are not on the streets they are less likely to be breaking into houses.”
Reading to Newborn Babies Beneficial
“Reading to young children has such a powerful impact on the rest of their lives that experts now recommend parents begin doing so when their babies are just hours old,” says The Toronto Star. Dr. Richard Goldbloom, who two years ago spearheaded the first newborn literacy program in Canada, says: “One of the things we’ve learned and observed is that when you do read to a baby, they really pay attention from very early infancy. They are listening.”
Research indicates that just giving books to children from a very early age improves their vocabulary and reading skills. According to the newspaper, “the point is not to force toddlers to learn to read, but to expose them to both quality and quantity of language so they can acquire vocabulary and letter and sound recognition—and, eventually, actual reading skills