Discussion Topic – Readers for Life: Inspiring life long readers

Read Montage

Scientifically speaking, reading is a complex set of cognitive processes which allows the reader to decode a series of symbols at a rapid rate to generate meaning. The ability to read is a kind of mental alchemy, allowing us to turn abstract images into stories, information and knowledge.  Reading effects how our brains work and cognitive neuroscientists  continue to study this phenomenon. Research has shown that brain activity in children can be used to predict their reading ability in later life; that reading for pleasure can improve vocabulary as well as performance in mathematics.  Reading has also been shown to be one of a number of activities that can reduce cognitive decline in old age.

Socially speaking, reading is a transformative skill, opening pathways via education to many other aspects of our lives. Early reading skills are being shown to be predictive for future educational success. A US study has shown that a child who cannot read proficiently by the third grade in school is four times more likely not to graduate from high school, and if that child is affected by poverty, it increases to 13 times more likely  not to graduate.  Whilst the internet myth that prison planners use reading rates to predict future prison growth isn’t true – analysis in the US has shown that that is a plausible link between children not reading proficiently and their risk of future incarceration increasing.

But for those who love to read, reading is more that just about our brains and society, reading is magical. Reading opens our lives and shows us new worlds, new ideas, new ways of thinking.  Both fiction and non-fiction reading can be a transformational experience, and a very addictive one at that.  As Neil Gaiman said in his now famous Reading Agency speech:

Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.

For the next two weeks will be exploring how libraries can inspire life-long readers and create readers for life and  will be featuring programs from around the world that seek to do just that.

Please consider discussing the following questions with your ILN partner or join in the wider conversation here in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook using #interlibnet:

  • Do you love to read? Why or why not?
  • What is your earliest reading memory?
  • Have you ever taken part in a reading program or book group?
  • Has your library (the one you work in or perhaps your local library) ever run a reading program? How did it go?
Posted in Discussion topics, Round 2016A and tagged , , .


  1. When I was a young child my sister used to read me poems and beatiful stories of famous portuguese writers. The time has passed, but the way I tresure literature and books stayed with me forever. I became a librarian! Children need to be presented to the beautiful world of imagination. Books are indeed a truly fantastic way!

  2. I was introduced to reading when I started nursery school & became hookef to it until I got my first child. Reading is so important even at the national level as it addresses many social injustices. The lack of it can breed hopelessness as well as despair, insecurity, poverty etc. But also the knowledge of this should guide national administrators to come up with better strategies of addressing many of the social ills as well as bringing up a balanced citizens.

  3. I recently joined my first book club, as a way to meet people after an international move. I’m really loving hearing from others about their reading journey, including one woman in the group who only started reading for pleasure about two years ago (she’s in her 30s). I also love that the book club is motivating me to read a whole range of books i would never have picked up otherwise.

    I find it interesting how reading can be both a solitary and social activity. Adults usually read alone – but then sometimes create situations to share the experience of the book. Perhaps this makes reading such a great activity for a range of personality types.

    -Alyson Dalby, ILN Director

  4. Though I’ve long been an avid private reader, I’ve also just joined my first ever book club – and it’s a bit unusual.

    An artist friend of mine invited me to join, each week a group of us get together and we are collectively reading one single book out loud. We take turns reading passages, pausing as we wish to discuss, clarify and share our thoughts. It’s been described as a ‘book club with no homework or guilt.

    We are reading The Aesthetics of Resistance https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Aesthetics_of_Resistance which is quite a challenging novel, so it’s a pleasure to be able to explore it with others. The first paragraph runs for 20+ pages!

    – Kate Byrne, ILN Director

  5. As a child, reading was something we did as a family. We would go to our public library together and all get a book. Later in life, I would walk with my grandmother to the Book Mobile and help her get a book. My grandmother did not go past 8th grade in education, but she was one of the smartest people I ever met. She read 8 -10 books a week for her entire life on earth.

    Reading helps to bring families together, makes us smarter, stretches our imaginations, takes us places, and teaches us subjects we are interested in learning. It is something we can do alone, however, shared, it can create discussions that can change the world.

    Teaching someone to read changes people’s lives.

    -Kristen Amaral, Technology Services Manager, Salinas Public Library

  6. Pingback: Discussion Topic – Readers for Life: Inspiring life long readers — International Librarians Network – Lifelong Quest

  7. Let’s also add in the affective power of reading fiction: “According to a study published in the journal PLOS ONE, losing yourself in a work of fiction might actually increase your empathy.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/08/05/health-benefits-reading_n_4081258.html). The article also discusses reading’s effect on depression, cognitive decline in old age, and insomnia.

    So the research on benefits is there. Now, let’s discuss how we create a reading culture in our schools. What’s working for you?

  8. I have very early memories of being read to by both parents; dad would read pseudo non-fiction (Pagoo, Paddle-to-the-Sea), and mom would read fiction and poetry (Mary Poppins and Platero & I). My sister and I would snuggle up, one to a side, and lose ourselves in the stories.

    When I was a bit older, a bookmobile came to our neighborhood once a week and I’d happily while away a hot afternoon (it was air-conditioned!) on the floor before choosing my books for the week. After the bookmobile program ended, it was a struggle to get my parents to take me to the library. In my sophomore year of high school, though, I discovered the library at the local university (reachable by bus) and was able to get my fix that way.

    I’ve never belonged to a book club, though I think that would be a fun thing to do. I try to instill a love of reading in my students but it’s an uphill battle. Even my avid readers are often overcome by too much schoolwork and too many tests. But I endeavor to lead by example, and I’ll continue to encourage my students to read outside the classroom!

  9. I love reading a lot, it all started at a very young age when my dad used to buy me story books i got so addicted to books that I could not go to bed without reading even when I visit relatives I had to carry a book little did I know that I will one day become a Librarian am happy with plenty of books that am spoilt with choices. I recently joined a book club where I work we help the less privileged kids to learn how to read and even write short stories, the program is so interesting since we are promoting information literacy, mostly we invite local schools and sometimes visit them, we have put up a small library for the specific program.

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