THE VALUE OF READING
By Dick Mason
Observer Staff Writer
People who struggle with reading should not despair they are in bright company.
Many highly intelligent and successful people find reading difficult, said Jill Schwimmer, an education professor at Pacific University.
Schwimmer, who is also a reading consultant, recently spoke to parents at Greenwood Elementary School.
"Bright, articulate, charming, wonderful people have reading problems,'' she said.
Schwimmer noted that several teams of researchers have set out to prove that people with reading problems are not as bright as other people. Instead, the researchers discovered that reading difficulties are not linked to intelligence.
"They found that there is not a correlation between how bright you are and whether or not you end up with reading problems,'' Schwimmer said.
Schwimmer has known many problem readers who are highly intelligent. One, a woman who had a Masters of Business Administration degree from Harvard University, could read but it was a struggle.
"She told me that she could read anything that she was forced to, but she would not read for pleasure (because it was so difficult),'' Schwimmer said.
Today this is no longer the case. After receiving tutoring to raise her skill level, the Harvard graduate enjoys reading.
Unfortunately, many adults and children fail to get the tutoring help they need because they believe a stigma is attached to those who have trouble reading.
By contrast, people are willing to admit to and laugh about their inadequacies in history, math and science.
"We think that everyone should be a reader,'' Schwimmer said.
How can parents help their children grow up to be readers?
One of the best ways is to let your children see you reading. Schwimmer noted that when a team of researchers questioned successful college students, one similarity came up repeatedly.
"Ninety-nine percent of the time the students mentioned that they remember seeing their parents reading,'' Schwimmer said.
It is no coincidence that these young people grew up to become readers. Schwimmer said what parents model for their children has a profound impact.
"Our children learn from your example. When they see you read, they know that it is something that is important and something you value,'' Schwimmer said. "It is important that they see you as readers.''
It is also critical that parents read to their children, Schwimmer said. Parents should make reading sessions enjoyable and leave the actual reading instruction to their teachers.
The professor stressed that if parents ask their children to do things like sound out words, family "reading will not be fun.''
In keeping with this theme, parents and children should discuss what they are reading.
"Instead of asking questions and making reading into a test, just share with each other thoughts on what was interesting so that your reader gets the idea that reading should make sense and be fun,'' Schwimmer said.
The educator compares reading to a recipe. She believes that almost everyone has the ingredients needed to be a good reader but that sometimes the mix needs to be adjusted. The ingredients include language structure, vocabulary and knowledge of symbols on a page such as punctuation marks.
"Most people (with reading problems) have what they need; they are just not using it well,'' said Schwimmer, who is based at Pacific University's Eugene campus.
The educator adamantly believes that people can always find the right mix needed to become good readers.
"No matter what age or grade last attended, it's never too late to learn to read well,'' Schwimmer said.