Can We Get Students to Read More?

One of the over-riding ambitions in starting Innovonomics was to support entrepreneurial efforts that can truly drive large-scale transformative change with the smart application of technology. Yes – the creation of the new-to-the-world technology is an important ingredient of any national innovation policy, but let us not forget about the impact of start application of very simple technologies.

READvantage – a social venture that Innovonomics will be nurturing over the next few months, is about using simple technologies to embed a culture of reading in young learners. It has been created with the mission of helping create better societies and citizens through the power of reading. 

Why reading? Well, a large body of academic and empirical research points to the positive impact of reading—particularly reading for pleasure–on academic achievement and progress, cognitive development and income levels. Readers show greater literacy, vocabulary and language development and are demonstrated by research to perform better academically. Readers are shown to have higher incomes, and are also known to be better citizens (with higher correlation to better health, volunteering, and strong satisfaction with life). Finally, reading is shown to be a great social leveler; as an example, 15-year-olds whose parents have the lowest occupational status but who are highly engaged in reading obtain higher average reading scores in PISA than students whose parents have high or medium occupational status but who report to be poorly engaged in reading. Reading also helps overcome the ‘endowment effect’;  the combined effect of reading is 4 times more powerful than having a parent with a college degree.

It is hard to deny the value of reading to the development of knowledge and information societies across the world. For many learners, however, their reading journey starts and ends in the classroom; in the absence of libraries, reading programs and a supportive culture of reading, most students lack the basic literacy skills for them to succeed. An estimated 30 to 50 per cent of school-leavers after four to six years of primary education in developing countries are neither literate nor numerate. The data is not very encouraging when you look at developed country results either.

A lot of work so far has gone into facilitating access to reading materials. However, facilitating access to reading materials for early learners is only one, albeit critical, piece of the solution. Analysis of effective reading programs and intervention shows that motivation, guidance and social recognition are critical components to plan within a program. READvantage is designed, therefore, to address all of these areas, encouraging and motivating young learners as they start their reading journeys.

We are extremely excited about the work planned by READvantage over the next few months, and look forward to sharing more.