Children’s book-reading habits: A new criterion for literacy

Education…has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading —George Macaulay Trevelyan, English Social History

Good habits gather by unseen degrees—As brooks make rivers, rivers run to seas. —John Dryden, Ovid, Metamorphoses


No reasonable person could argue against learning to read. The point of this article is that learning to read is not just a matter of mastering a few simple skills, nor is literacy just a matter of passing a reading test. Learning to read must involve acquiring the reading habit. Literacy must be viewed as the regular exercise of reading skills through reading books. The time-honored reasons why children should read books are now bolstered and supplemented by new research evidence that book reading can make a unique and powerful contribution to children's reading development.

Our society, then, must provide all possible encouragement and opportunity for children to read books. Access to books is a necessary condition for becoming a good reader. Reading itself is the key to literacy. Helping America's children build lifelong reading habits must now be regarded as a true national priority.

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Professor Richard C. Anderson is the center's director. Their research assistant

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Wilson, P.T., Anderson, R.C. & Fielding, L.G. Children’s book-reading habits: A new criterion for literacy. Book Research Quarterly 2, 72–84 (1986).

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