Background of the Study

Reading is a means of acquiring information. It is an important tool for people in every society because it enables access to information. In the world of learning, reading is such a powerful tool that enables human beings build upon their existing knowledge in the journey of widening their horizon in various fields, Robeck and Wallace (1990) gave credence to this by defining reading as a process of translating signs and symbols into meanings and incorporating the new information into existing cognitive and affective structures. This means that through reading, information is obtained and added to the already existing knowledge to enable one to make right decisions. In order to obtain information, meaning has to be derived from a passage. Reading involves both physical and mental activities, that is, the eyes and the brain work in coordination for the reader to get meaning out of a given reading material, unlike watching television. For this reason, it is usually alleged that reading is advantageous over electronic media such as television and video in personal development and societal advancement. Kaufman (2000) captures it by saying that watching television is a passive experience, the child simply sits and stares at the screen where there is little thought and little physical movement. Through reading, ideas that have been put in writing can be easily understood, thereby eliminating the labour of passing knowledge from person to person by word 2 doing. Reading habits are regarded as the use of reading as a regular activity. It could be considered in terms of the amount of materials being read. It could also be the frequency of reading as well as the average time spent on reading. Harris and Hodges (1991) defines reading habit as the cultivation of an attitude and the possession of skills which make reading a pleasurable, regular and constant activity. They further said that reading is borne out of the realization of the enormous advantages that the individual and the society can gain when most of its members read a variety of materials for a variety of functions –to learn, to survive, for their entertainment and general upliftment. Inculcating reading habits in children involves alerting them to the value of reading and providing materials that will stir their curiosity sustain their interest and give them pleasurable experience. Before children can develop the habit of reading, they must have acquired good reading skills, or the specific abilities which enable a reader to read the written form as a meaningful language, to read anything written with independence comprehension and fluency; to mentally interact with the message (Sofisan,1999). It is purely a mental exercise where the reader manipulates his mental thought process to assign meaning to the visual symbols, and then synthesize them into existing body of knowledge. Good reading habits entail the development of reading skill and this skill can be developed when children are functional and at best voluntary readers. Functional reading is the ability to read, write and calculate figures well enough to carry out activities that many people consider necessary to function in the society. Onwumelu (1991) defines functional reading as the ability to read, comprehend and use written materials that are important to one’s daily functioning and social well being. It lays emphasis only on the superficial reading and writing convention such as spelling, sentence construction, vocabulary, punctuation, crystallization and refinement of language. Consequently, functional reading considers a person literate once he can pass the set examination at a given level. Tella and Akande (2007) say functional reading is like teaching a person to drive and then giving them only a few drops of petrol to practice with. The machine is perfect and driving skill has been acquired but it is not yet an automatic skill because there has not been enough practice. Once the fuel run out, the driving skill becomes useless and begins to deteriorate. Voluntary reading on the other hand involves providing a continuous supply of easily processed fuel so that now the driver can go places, can get to enjoy driving and can eventually realize the limitless possibilities it opens up. Voluntary reading is the type of reading that is engaged in for the fun of it. This is the type of reading done without the intention of writing any form of examination, test or quiz. It is the type of reading which brings enjoyment because of the interest the reader has developed. The reading may be fiction or non-fiction. It may be from magazines, from an encyclopedia or from pamphlets. Gould(1998) points out the words of Gardiner that children who engage in voluntary reading portray a living picture of individual differences. A difficult book on electricity may be recreation for some boy who spends time working on electrical contrivances. A book of fairy tales may be recreation for some imaginative youngster. A factual book in social studies may be recreation for the child who has been privileged to travel a great deal. A guide book about birds or trees may be recreation for children who love the out of doors. The hopes, wants, interests, dreams ideas and ideals of the children are revealed through what they read. As the child reads, his horizons are widening; his spirit is deepening; he is becoming more aware of other people and places, his imagination is stirred and his emotional experiences are constantly enriched.

Statement of the Problem

Research literature shows that reading for pleasure or voluntary reading benefits children in numerous ways. Through reading young people can build up conversational skills, explore the world around them, solve problems in their environment, derive pleasure, be successful academically and broaden their horizon and stand out among peer. Conversely, if children do not read they will not have the benefits that come with reading. This is obvious in our society today where children only read to pass their exam or read only whenever any form of examination is coming up. This is also evident in what we hear on radio and television often that our society lacks reading culture. If this continues, it could lead to failure in personal and national development. There is also the additional concern about the effect of electronic media on reading. However, there has not been much emphasis on the influence of difference in social economic background on reading, to know if this has any effect on reading habits of JSS students, and if it does, to know what how. Given the current concerns about reading and the clear benefits that reading for pleasure can bring, it is vital that more emphasis is placed on reading enjoyment both at school and at home.

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Updated: 10th May 2019 — 5:18 pm