By Lori Berezovsky | July 23, 2018

I am encouraged that readers logged 23,271 books during this summer’s reading program. People of all ages took part, and it was great to see children and adults check out stacks of reading materials. I recently read an opinion piece (“We Can’t Become a Nation of Equal Learners Until We Become a Nation of Readers”, Matt Bardin, The Hechinger Report, June 4, 2018) that said, “…reading remains the backbone of a real education.” When we read and expand our vocabularies, we can better understand and describe concepts. We know we need to read to our children so they will do well in school, but it goes beyond that. Adults need to be readers, too, and not just because the kids need a reading role model. Advanced reading is directly related to critical thinking skills, and let’s face it, we all use those skills every day, whether we need to buy a new stove or solve a problem at work.

Critical thinking is defined as being able to understand the links between ideas, determine the relevance and importance of ideas, identify, construct and appraise arguments, pick out errors and inconsistencies in reasoning, and look at problems in a consistent and systematic way (Wikipedia).  

The good news is that when we read a book by an award-winning author (Perhaps Albert Einstein or Toni Morrison), “what they say increases our knowledge, but how they say it makes us smarter” (Bardin). Even better news: For those rapidly developing adolescent brains, reading great authors activates deeper cognitive abilities. Sadly, less than half of Americans graduate from high school with proficient reading skills. The recently released Nation’s Report Card numbers are hard to believe but true: only 37 percent of high school 12th-graders read at a “proficient” level.

What can we do about this here in Salina? We can continue reading during the summer and throughout the year. We can attend book discussion groups. We can read authors we don’t usually read. We can challenge ourselves to read out of our comfort level. It’s not how quickly a book is read, but whether or not it makes us think. Rediscover the joy of reading a book, just because you want to. Browse the library’s shelves and find a new author to explore or read those classics you never got around to.

Before you know it, we’ll become a nation of readers.