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  • Writer's pictureKathleen Lees

Reading 1st: It's The Most Important Skill

Updated: Jun 16, 2022

One of my most outspoken students recently got a job at a hospital in St. Louis. I'm really excited for her. She has only been in the country for a little over two months, but is extremely adaptive to her new environment. She came here with her family from Afghanistan.

There are only six weeks of school left before summer school begins. The remainder of this year, we are working on personal presentations that involve talking about a hobby or something important to you for 10-15 minutes in English.

The student that I previously mentioned elected to give her presentation first, and her hobby is reading. She chose to focus on all the reading she has done on acute and chronic stress and the long term effects it can have on the body. She hopes to one day work as a cardiologist.

Why Reading?

I really never think about how important reading is (but then I live in a country where the primary language is the one I grew up with.) In addition, the primary skills for the job I currently have involve reading and writing.

I didn't always consider how important reading was, especially how it affects almost all other jobs you might have in life, until I took a professional development class through the Missouri Department of Education for Adult Education Learning (AEL) on reading comprehension and writing.

Today, jobs that favor skills with math and science--particularly computers--take precedence over other things. (Yes, I'm typing this on a computer right now... though it has always been a fantasy to own a typewriter!) Regardless, data entry, coding, or anything else will only go so far if your reading skills are lacking. And, of course, this is even more true for people learning a new language or working to get their high-school diploma or college degree.

I'm not advocating to stop learning new computer skills. (Stay on top of those!) But reading better prepares you to learn and genuinely understand these materials, as opposed to just memorizing them.

Books Are Enlightening

I'm always delighted by the things I learn from reading for my personal enjoyment--any new vocabulary, phrases, facts about a person or place, etc., or just the way something made me feel--and on a similar note, I'm grateful for the books I get to use at the school to teach with. These books are thoughtful and encourage progressive thinking through all different types of learning--whether it's listening, reading, writing, etc.

My current favorites are "Let's Talk 3: Second Edition" by Leo Jones and "Traveling through Idioms: An Exercise Guide to the World of American Idioms," by Judi Kadden. I'm also really excited because next school year, I am receiving newer books specifically for immigrant adults on National Geographic and Ted Talks.

Reading 1st

When you first go to another country, possibly before you even say a word, you might read a sign to figure out where you are and where you need to go. And even if you are in your own country speaking your own language, navigating your daily environment through the words and symbols in the area is essential. A lot of that just involves reading and grasping what's going on in the area.

Lastly, simply reading for pleasure, in whatever language and wherever you are allows you to enter your own world and create a unique environment that's specific to you. It's a joy that no one can afford to miss out on.

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