Habitual reading is considered as one of the most important exercise for enhancing one's academic performance. Regular reading increases one's vocabulary and ability to think, improves one's verbal and writing abilities, and broadens one's horizon Thus, it is important for students to adopt the reading culture for improved academic performance.
The main objectives of the study is to: investigate the reading habits of students of St. Johns Grammar Secondary School, find out the types of materials they read, ascertain their purposes for reading and their perception of reading habits and academic performance, and lastly to find out factors that affect or hinder their reading habits. The study used the survey methodology and questionnaire as the main data collection instrument. Simple random sampling was used to select 133 students to participate in the study. Out of the 133 copies of questionnaires distributed, 131 were completed giving a response rate of 98.5%. The data was analyzed by using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS). Frequency tables were used to present the findings.
The findings of the study revealed that the majority of the respondents acknowledge the importance of reading, read story books, textbooks and class notes. Their purposes for reading included acquiring acknowledge, learning new things, improving their vocabulary and grades, passing examination and for pleasure. The participants unanimously agreed that reading habits have a direct influence on students' academic performance. The study recommended that both parents and school authorities must encourage students to read habitually for increased academic performance. The school library must be stocked with current, relevant and interesting books to increase library use and love for reading among the students.
The ability to cultivate and develop good reading habits enables one to have the opportunity of broaden his or her knowledge. For example, all elementary school subjects such as mathematics, science, social studies and even spelling require students to read. Rosenberg (2003) stressed that an early exposure of a child to books and literacy activities in their early childhood makes them to understand the functions of prints which manifests literate behaviour long before they are formally learn to read. Such people also read faster with great ease than their counterparts who might have had no previous experience with books.
Reading habit among students in general has become a source of worry to many including educationists who continue to complain about low standards in both writing and speaking of the English language. Reading also increases the vocabulary of individuals and enables them to speak and write well. Reading attitudes lead to positive reading experiences which also lead to higher academic performance. People read for various reasons. Some read to find more information on an aspect of social living, some read to alleviate boredom, some read to while away time, and some also read to gain specific information. To others, reading doubles as a form of leisure and hobby. Others also read to acquire knowledge in order to pass their examination (Stebbins 2013).
Reading is considered as a basic tool for learning and therefore important to every individual. Consequently the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) have focussed most of her activities within the area of promoting reading among communities. For instance, as far back as 1972 UNESCO launched a programme captioned, ‘Books for All' for the member states to implement to improve reading habits in their various countries. The main purpose of the programme was to promote and encourage reading habits among people globally.
A paper also delivered at the 65th IFLA Councils and General Conference held in Bangkok, Thailand in 1999, indicated that if developing countries, especially Asia and Africa do not put adequate measures in place to promote reading habits in their respective countries more people will become illiterate by the end of the century.
In most African countries, reading in general has been recognised as an academic exercise often linked to the reading of only textbooks which deals with the core content of the subject matter. Formation of reading habits among students in Ghana should be a matter of concern
to all stakeholders in the country. Rosenberg (2003) states that a reading nation is a winning nation therefore efforts should be made to promote reading among students in the country.
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