When a child is born the parents document everything, first smile, first outfit, and most importantly first word. Almost everyone knows their first word and if they don’t it’s probably written in a baby book or photo album. This is because language is our primary source of communication, we read, we write, and we listen to it our whole life. It has a big impact on who we are as a person. For instance a person who grew up in a house that spoke two languages has a completely different life from someone who grew up only learning one. And more often than not a language can be associated with a certain culture, which can also change not only someone’s personality but also how they are viewed by other people. Therefore it only makes sense that language has this immense power over us, and one of its most powerful aspects is reading.
Think back to when you were a child and stories were read to you, maybe before bed, or at school. Perhaps there was a favorite story that you would ask your parents to read to you all the time, there is a good chance over time your parents didn’t need to look at the book anymore because they had read it out loud so many times. This is because reading aloud helps us to remember easier, and some studies have begun to prove this, “MacLeod has named this phenomenon the “production effect”. It means that producing written words – that’s to say, reading them out loud – improves our memory of them.” (Hardach) Colin MacLeod, a psychologist at the University of Waterloo in Canada, has done studies over a variety of age groups to show the impact reading aloud has on our memory. In the studies people were given a list of words and were told to read some aloud and some silently and then correctly identify them. “When asked which ones they recognised, they were able to correctly identify 80% of the words they had read aloud, but only 60% of the silent ones.” (Hardach)
Simply being literate can change a person’s life and the opportunities they have. “Literacy is an act of power and freedom. It is why slaves in our wrenching and painful U.S. history were forbidden to learn to read and write, and why young girls living in repressive societies today are kept out of the classroom.” (Allyn) Reading helps us in so many ways, we can read about history to better understand how our world came to be. We can read about lands that don’t even exist but the author can make them seem so real that we forget where we are. We can read textbooks and study materials to help us do better in school. I believe reading is the true power of language, because when we read, especially if we start to read as children, the world makes more sense. We begin to understand concepts such as patriarchy, racism and oppression. We understand how the world has evolved over time and get ideas as to how we can help it be a better place. And all this, everything we read and have read to us during our life all starts with our first words.