By Paula Fallas Sánchez - School of Education Student
When former US president Barak Obama said “reading is the gateway skill that makes all other learning possible” (2005, para. 19), he did so knowing the immense advantages that came with having a good reading habit. Unfortunately, Costa Rica does not possess a prominent reading culture. The youth of today are not being taught to appreciate literature in the way that would benefit them. The most efficient ways to increase literary appreciation in a population is through early exposure at home and through developed free public libraries.
Like with most things in this world, the way our parents or the people we are raised with interact with literature is a huge influence to developing a good reading habit. When a child is raised in a home where reading is done as a normal part of life, they grow up admiring it. According to research made by UNESCO, when a family has books and reading material in their home that is visible to the children, it highly influences their curiosity and attraction towards reading (Krolak, 2005). If the child lives in an environment where they are exposed to books, they will certainly be more likely to read. This same research then found that not only is having books around the house important, but a positive attitude from parents towards reading is also one of the most important factors in cultivating a healthy reading habit (Krolak, 2005). Things as simple as reading books to children, making them read a couple minutes a day, getting books that interest them, and making sure you set an example for your kids are all leading factors in the appreciation of literature.
Unbeknownst to most, a system that has been proven to work several times in the movement to promote literacy is the implementation of free public libraries. Libraries provide books for the community that any person can check out and then return free of charge. This includes story books for all ages, non-fiction books, as well as academic books. Having access to a free library with a wide range of books would make it so that even families that might not be able to afford books for their kids would be able to still provide reading material that would help their child’s development (UNESCO, 2016). This act has actually been proven to be effective in other countries. In fact, countries with well-developed free libraries that are accessible to the community have an exceedingly higher literacy rate (UNESCO, 2016). A country cannot expect more people to be reading if they do not have affordable access to books.
Some people might believe that libraries would not be helpful now that we are living through a pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has reduced the amount of people that leave their homes for pleasure. Going to the library to check out a book might seem unnecessary for people that fear being infected. However, many libraries have found a solution to this by having an online platform (Abumandour, 2020). Libraries can offer online books that can be accessed through a website by using the member’s library card information. This would be incredibly useful for those might live farther away from the library or are traveling and will be gone for some time. They would still be able to access books through the library’s website. This easy and quick access to books would be both safe and highly advantageous.
The art of reading is one that should be cherished. Having a good reading habit is not simply a pass time, but a way to make sure that our brain is developing correctly amongst the other advantages that come with reading. In order for Costa Rica to encourage literacy amongst the population, there must be free public libraries that are available to the community and more early exposure to literature in homes. When Obama said, “Reading is the gateway skill that makes all other learning possible”, he did so fully understanding the importance that literature has in society.
MOXIE es el Canal de ULACIT (www.ulacit.ac.cr), producido por y para los estudiantes universitarios, en alianza con el medio periodístico independiente Delfino.cr, con el propósito de brindarles un espacio para generar y difundir sus ideas. Se llama Moxie - que en inglés urbano significa tener la capacidad de enfrentar las dificultades con inteligencia, audacia y valentía - en honor a nuestros alumnos, cuyo “moxie” los caracteriza.
Abumandour, T., S., (2020, April 6). Public libraries’ role in supporting e-learning and spending lifelong education: A study. Journal of Research in Innovative Teaching & Learning. Emerald Insight. https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/JRIT- 06-2019-0063/full/html
Krolak, L. (2005). The role of libraries in the creation of literate environments. UNESCODOC Digital Library. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000146057
Obama, B. (2005, June 25). Literacy and education in 21st-century economy. [Speech written format]. http://obamaspeeches.com/024-Literacy-and-Education-in-a-21st-Century- Economy-Obama-Speech.htm
UNESCO. (2016). Using libraries to support national literacy efforts. UNESCODOC Digital Library. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000246778