Reading: It Is a Culture!

It is said that reading is a window of knowledge. To my opinion, it is not just a window, but it is more like a door. What is the reason to say so? Because reading is an absolute way for people to learn, study, explore, and to acquire knowledge, by which they improve the overall quality of their life. That is why in developed countries reading has been the culture of the nation. It is the part of their life. When shall reading be such a culture in Indonesia?

To establish the interest of reading, the National Education Curriculum has strongly encouraged students’ attitude towards reading. Reading is a skill that can only be acquired by leaning and practice. Further than just as a language skill, reading requires exercising to sharpen it. In school, students learn to find out what the text is about or locate particular information. This type of reading is called as intensive reading.

Lany Kristono, a lecturer of Faculty of Language and Literature of Satya Wacana Chritian Untiversity Salatiga, quoted an epigraph in Jo Ann Aebersold and Mary Lee Field’s book From Reader to Reading Teacher (1997) says, “Reading is like an infectious disease: it is caught not taught (And you can’t get it from someone who hasn’t got it). Since reading is infectious, it is mostly acquired from the life environment: family, school and society. The aim of reading here is not limited to catching particular information and understanding the content of the text, but most to allowing knowledge flowing into the mind. This type of reading is an extensive reading.

In developed countries, children have habit of reading from the reading environment, both from their family and school, as in these countries reading has been the part of the life. Realizing the importance of reading, parents provide books to their children. Even, they read books for their baby. Reading is not just a subject in schools in which students learn to understand the contents of the text, but it has been the culture of their life.

The habit of reading may be a little bit better in the middle and upper class society, as parents usually have better perception of reading and books are affordable. But for lower class, reading is still far from daily activities and books are still expensive items. In this case, National Education Curriculum should assertively encourage extensive reading as an integral part of the language teaching (English and Indonesian) and it should be done outside school.

Unlike intensive reading in which students learn text comprehension, extensive reading offer students to pick up materials of their preference. Extensive reading is mainly aimed at establishing the reading atmosphere in which they would experience reading as an enjoyment. Extensive reading will give a chance to learners to express what they think about the text, connect the text with their life and also share experience with the text. This will certainly be a valuable opportunity to them to learn reasoning skills. When learners have been accustomed to express their ideas with reasonable arguments, they will automatically improve their writing and speaking skill. In writing and speaking, not only do learners arrange words in grammatically correct rules, but also how they can express arguments with logical supports in the form of sentences.

Realizing the significance of reading, now it is the time for us to change our perception of reading. Reading is more like a door to us, through which we can appreciate text, relate it to our life, as well as share experience with the text. We can learn from the text and let knowledge flow in. How we perceive reading will influence the public view of reading. Once, people have perceived that reading is the part of our life and it is not just a subject in schools, then we come to a stage where reading is getting the culture of life. Since then, we will see far more people in public means of transportation or public waiting places, silently read something in hands but to chat that will just add the noise in the places.

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