Reading books improves writing skills


Anyone who deals with reading is dealing with a complex phenomenon. The term initially describes a perception and processing process. According to Duden, reading means that people "grasp something written, a text with their eyes and mind". But the meaning goes far beyond the technical level: The phrase "reading as a total phenomenon" by the sociologist Marcel Mauss and the communication scientist Ulrich Saxer refers to the fundamental importance of reading as "one of the most important traditional cultural techniques" and as "the essential prerequisite for the cultural development of man and the formation of societies ". [1]

The invention of typesetting with movable type is seen as a necessary condition for reading to this day, which enabled the rapid, because variable, production of print templates with which texts could be produced in large numbers for widespread dissemination among the population. The great importance attached to this development to this day is shown by the symbolic treatment of Johannes Gutenberg, who was named "Man of the Millennium" by US journalists in 1998 and whose 550th anniversary of death was celebrated in 2018 with numerous events and publications also the status of the book as the central leading medium to this day. UNESCO emphasized its importance in 1995 with the definition of a "World Book and Copyright Day", which has been celebrated on April 23rd ever since.

As early as 1965, UNESCO dedicated a second necessary condition a special day of remembrance when it declared September 8th as World Literacy Day. Every year it raises awareness that reading and writing skills, which enable the use of books and other reading media in the first place, are not a matter of course in our time and in societies with highly developed educational systems. The question of how reading is doing in Germany and in an international comparison has played a central role at least since the "PISA shock" triggered by the publication of the first international comparative performance assessment of pupils in the OECD countries in 2001 , since the average performance of schoolchildren in Germany was below the international mean. [2]

Reading skills

For a long time it was assumed that around four million adults in Germany had limited or no reading and writing skills based on estimates. In 2011 the "leo. - Level-One Study" of the University of Hamburg provided reliable, representative figures for the first time. [3] According to this, in 2010 7.5 million people of working age in Germany were unable to read or at most read at the simplest level of text. This corresponds to 14.5 percent of the 18 to 64 year olds. Figures of a similar magnitude were provided by an internationally comparative adult survey similar to the PISA study, the OECD's Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC): [4] In 2011/12, 17.5 percent of the Inadequate reading skills for adults between 16 and 65 years of age. Since both studies focused on people who could be tested in German, it can be assumed that the actual extent is greater. In May 2019, the leo. - Basic education study present current findings on the basic skills of adults in Germany. [5]

It is surprising that there are adults in Germany who grew up here and who cannot read or write properly despite attending school for at least nine years. A representative survey by the Allensbach Institute for Demoscopy on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Reading Foundation showed that only one in three people has any idea "how many adults in Germany can hardly read or not at all ". [6] Estimates range from under a million to over 15 million. On average, with 5.65 million people affected, the ideas level off close to the empirical findings, but their range shows that problems with reading and writing tend to remain abstract and their consequences are barely visible in everyday life. In recent years, high-profile campaigns have made an important contribution to sensitizing the general public and social actors to the topic and highlighting the opportunities that good reading and writing skills mean individually. [7]

Even if reading and writing problems occur somewhat more frequently in older population groups than in younger groups, it is not a dying phenomenon, but a continuously growing one. This is confirmed by studies among adolescents and school children: in 2015, 16.2 percent of 15-year-olds had problems reading. [8] In 2016, 18.9 percent of pupils with insufficient reading skills switched from primary to secondary schools. [9] All relevant studies identify the educational requirements in the parental home as the most important factor influencing educational opportunities: The early, playful handling of books, reading and telling at home contribute significantly to the fact that children and young people later develop joy in their own reading and that through the stories Vocabulary, imagination and social skills are strengthened. Children who grow up like this learn to read more easily. They are better at school later, because through reading motivation and practice they also train the reading skills that are needed in all subjects. Children whose parents do not read to them, read hardly at all or hardly at all, and in whose households reading media do not play a role, have an increased risk of not having found sufficient access to reading into adulthood. [10]

Three million children and adolescents who are currently disadvantaged in reading (learning) can be extrapolated for Germany on the basis of current studies. [11] They motivate a large number of actors who are committed to promoting reading among children and young people nationwide, regionally or locally. The focus is on approaches that encourage children before they start school and during school time outside of class. These impulses reinforce and accompany what children learn in class - and they have an effect that should not be underestimated. This is shown by analyzes of the reading learning process of children with intensive and little reading experience: The early impulses give children unmatchable start-up capital that gives them advantages for their school development that schools cannot compensate for, even with the best equipment and committed teaching staff.

Preventive approaches to promoting reading, which aim to convey the joy of reading and motivation to read to children as early as possible, should be thought of as complementary to catching up literacy and basic education for adults in order to gradually reduce the risk groups that are growing up. Because the educational background and reading socialization of today's adults with reading and writing problems threaten to continue into the next generations: every second young adult between 16 and 35 years with poor reading skills has a maximum of 25 books in their own household. [12] This age group, which represents the current and future generation of parents, is also much less likely to provide their own children with children's books than reading-loving parents, and they will hardly be able to read to their children. In 2017, 57 percent of all households in Germany with children up to three years of age contained a maximum of 10 children's books. [13]

Buying and consuming books

These figures raise the general question of the importance of books as a central reading medium. In June 2018 the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels published under the title "Buchkäufer - Quo vadis?" a differentiated analysis of the purchase and use of books. [14] The research diagnosed a decline of six million adult book buyers between 2013 and 2017. Today's 40 to 49-year-olds have said goodbye to books particularly often, and those who are 20 to 39-year-olds are also leaving more than the average. The study contrasts the abandonment of the book with the use of digital media and online activities, which have gained in importance over the same period with ever larger time budgets. Above all, "digital entertainment forms" in the form of series that are used via streaming services have taken the place of books.

In the qualitative part of the study, the Börsenverein identifies the reasons that prevent book buyers who have migrated from reading. The statements condense into a scenario that is mainly characterized by lack of time, fast pace, overstimulation and high demands on accessibility and communicative activity. With these conditions, many experience that reading books is no longer compatible. The memory of previous reading activities is usually positive.

The results point to the need to continue to inspire younger generations to read books as the central reading medium. Because even if one or the other later turns away from reading, books with a view to the reading skills of the later adults are not just a means of acquiring education and an object of self-sufficient reading pleasure. Rather, reading books promotes the basic skills required to be able to read and understand texts of all kinds in all life situations, including when dealing with digital media on a daily basis. Accordingly, reading means more than reading books, as a large part of everyday activities requires reading skills and reading practice. For people who cannot read and write properly, this functionality is limited, for example when it comes to forms or packaging, timetables and short messages. That is why one speaks of "functional illiteracy".