Most-Clicked: Mixed Views on Reading Rates

Last week’s most-clicked SmartBrief story reported on a new study from the National Endowment for the Arts, claiming Americans, especially young Americans, are spending less time reading for pleasure. These findings are concurrent with flattening middle school, and declining high school, scores on tests of reading proficiency.

However, several reading experts, while agreeing that attention to reading proficiency is extremely important, disagree with the NEA’s finding that reading is on the decline in the U.S. Those in disagreement with the report’s findings claim the NEA exaggerated statistics, or did not consider online reading sources, when tabulating time spent reading.

Go to the NY Times or Edweek for more on this story . . . and let us know your take on the issue below.

24 COMMENTS

  1. Kids WILL read when provided with quality literature. I was able to extablish a rotating library through a grant from our local Rotary club. High School students with 3rd-6th grade reading levels were excited to open the boxes and look at the books. It helped to introduce a few books and describe them. We then had periodic “book talks” which resulted in other students eagerly reading what their peers had enjoyed. Teachers & parents, don’t give up!

  2. Students do not read because we are not giving them the incentive to read. As teachers we need to make sure we are providing our students with books that are both enjoyable and at our students reading levels. When a student is asked to read something that is too difficult they are not even going to try to read. We need to make sure we give our students the chance to choose what they read, so that it will be something that is interesting for them.
    As parents we need to stop allowing our children to obsess on the Internet, TV, iPod, video games, etc. We are more guilty than the teachers for our students not reading. We have provided our children with “toys” and said “go on, you aren’t bothering me.” We must get our children to reading at home. My husband and I have started going to bed early to read. We have taken away our childs computer games and the TV out of his room. Now we all read for at least one hour each evening.
    We are all responsible for what our students/children are reading. This is not just a school issue.

  3. Although our society has so many “toys” that consume children’s time, we as parents need to not take away these toys but make sure we encourage even a half an hour of our child’s day to reading. In our fast paced world, we all need to realize that we don’t need to read for hours at a time but just set an alloted time each day and devote it to reading. We can even sit down and relax with a book while our child reads to model this behavior or even read with our child! I agree that we need to monitor what our children read to make sure they aren’t reading something too easy but not so difficult that reading discourages them. That is our role as adults.

  4. I agree that we need to provide our children with quality literature, but we also need to embrace what they are interested in. I remember reading Sweet Valley High, and books by V.C. Andrews in Jr high and high school much to my mother’s dismay. They were not quality reading but she was happy to see me reading. to get children excited about reading we need to let them read what they are interested and excited about. In my first grade classroom I have Pokemon books, Barbie books and other books of interest. When it is free reading they can read books of their choice. I don’t remember learning to love reading from any required classroom text, but from the freedom of being allowed to read what was interesting to me.

  5. I have had kids beg me for free reading time in the classroom, but when they get it, there are always a few students who want to sit and do nothing. I think, like always, there are some students who love to read, and others who would rather do anything else. Sometimes it is a matter of finding something the child is interested in. Once that happens, I have found, they may not want to put the book down.

  6. “I don’t like everything I read, but everything I read has value.” As a parent and a teacher, these are the words I attempt to model within my classroom and my home. Too often I get caught up in the classic literature I teach. While I may thoroughly enjoy Steinbeck, his subtleties may be lost on my 9th grade students. My job as a parent and a teacher is helping my student and my children find the value of everything they read. Letting them choose literature they are interested and engaged in will help promote a love for reading. Taking time out within the classroom to give students an opportunity to read is also a necessary practice I have come to accept. I must also read while they are reading. If I do not lead by example, then how can I expect them to develop their love for reading? At home I must continue to have a reading hour for the entire family.

  7. As Stephen Krashen states, I don’t think that the reading performances have declined but I do believe that they are not up to par. I can’t imagine what kind of society we will be if we continue to lack the basic reading and writing skills that are needed to have our country advance. I too believe that reading is extremely important and read for enjoyment myself. I teach all subjects but I really want to reinforce the importance in my math classes. Word problems are a huge battle for a majority of my students. How can I get them to read for enjoyment so that it will eventually not be looked at as a chore? I have been to Stephen Krashen’s presentation on silent reading and it is great, but how can I incorporate this into my math class?

  8. As a teacher, I need to remind my students of the wide world of non-fiction. Too often elementary students underuse this part of the library. The key is finding topics of high interest to individual students and a choice of how to show what they have learned. I use parent volunteers in the classroom. Students share what they are reading for fifteen minutes each week with an adult volunteer. This has greatly increased their motivation and they enjoy the one-on-one time. Part of the reading grade is reading six new chapter books each quarter on their reading level. I read at least two lengthy chapter books with the students each quarter to expose them to new genres and authors. No matter how old children are, most still enjoy hearing a story read aloud and reading together.

  9. One of the issues in schools is that with all the emphasis on testing, much of the reading done is short passages. The district in which I work nearly forces teachers to be subversive in order to teach good novels or larger works of literature…fiction or non-fiction. Reading in the classroom ends up being very piecemeal. This may help pass tests but it doesn’t encourage a love of reading good books. With a mixture of exposure to classic good literature and free choice kids would ultimately read more and then perform better on the tests.

  10. I think a lot of us get so caught up in the concept of traditional reading (sitting down and opening a book) that we don’t think about why reading is important. The skills that one develops when reading (visualization, analytical thinking, maintaining focus, building vocabulary, etc.) are not exclusive to this traditional concept. You can build these skills in many different ways. The reason fewer kids are reading traditional books is that as educators we’re not keeping up with the times. Technology can be an ally in developing these same skills. Is there really less educational value if a student downloads an audiobook to an ipod rather than sitting down and reading it? Aren’t those same skills being improved? When we try to force kids into our concept of what’s “real reading,” of course they’re going to be less interested.

  11. I love reading as long as it is something that I am interested in. I have enough self-discipline to read other things as well though even if it is not for entertainment or personal gain. As a school teacher it is frustrating to stress that importance. It kills me when students will not read the directions and then ask what they are supposed to do. My favorite (this is sarcasm talking)is when there is something written on the board such as assignment and students say “oh, I did not know that we were supposed to do that because I did not tell them too”. I want my students to read everything that is around them whether it is directions on a test or eventually road signs because my students will be driving soon. I want them to know that the speed limit changes or that there is traffic up ahead an they need to take an alternate route. They need to know that they should read everything around them just in case it does apply to them.

  12. I read the research article in full.
    One thing I noticed is that the amount of reading people do is related directly to the free time they have to do it!
    If you’ll note the tables in the research article, the only group that showed more than an average of an hour a day for reading were the retirees.
    I spent my working life teaching English, but only now that I am retired can I take the time to read those wonderful, long, Victorian novels.
    Such novels may not be the first choice of my former students, but I did devise a strategy to enable them to read classic literature. I arranged the literature titles in the order of difficulty, and suggested that my more reluctant students read the easier level of difficulty titles first.
    I have posted this list for all to see on my website, and no doubt a search for “writing ladders” or “reading ladders” on any search engine will pull up my site. You’ll find the list under “Language Arts Lesson Plans” for the appropriate course goal related to reading.
    I encouraged non-fiction reading too. I used the same approach, an approach I call “reading ladders.” I encouraged my students to find a subject they were very interested in, find three books on that subject, one easy, one medium difficulty, one adult or college difficulty. If students will read three books on a single subject they want to learn about, and read them in the order of reading difficulty, by the time they get to the “hard” book, they will have learned enough from the easier books to prepare them to understand it.
    Probably the public library would be the place to go to find books of varying levels. I started students out on non-fiction books in the children’s collection. Medium difficulty books could be found in the young adult section. Of course the difficult books would be in the adult section.
    I don’t hear much talk about this simple process in current educational discussions or literature, but believe you me, it works.
    If every teacher in every school encouraged their students to follow this simple tactic, we could get rid of NCLB because we would no longer need it. Students would once again be reading beyond and above their grade level.

  13. There are many facets or components to a decline in reading interest. Watching, instead of reading, is so much easier. It does not require much skill. These activities need to be seen for what they are, mindless entertainment. As for cultivating the interest of children, “book blessings” work well for my students, my own children and for me. A book blessing is when another person gives a little intro to a book or reads a small excerpt and why the book warrants further reading. It usually works for me with my own reading.

  14. I agree with a lot of the comments left by others. I think that enjoyment of reading is decided by many factors: time, emphasis by parents, interest in the book, modeled behavior and incentive. I think that perhaps the biggest factor is simply access to literature in early childhood. Many of my students grew up in households where there were very few children’s books to be found. It seems to me that those students who love to read, when asked, talk about the immense home libraries they have.
    I try to have a large array of topics in my classroom library with books of all different levels. I know the key is finding the perfect book to get the student started. This year I have a couple of kids who hated reading before Harry Potter and now they don’t want to put the book down. I think the challenge now is to help them find what comes after Harry.
    One of my favorite reading incentive I use in my class is accelerated reader. I don’t use it so much for the reading comprehension quizzes, but the students do get excited about it. Accelerated reader gives each student a independent reading range and the books are marked accordingly. When they finish the book, they can take a computer generated comprehension quiz. If they pass, they earn points towards an end of the year prize. I think it’s a great program if you have the ability to use it.

  15. One of the things we’ve used at our school has been a 25 Books Campaign. We do everything we can to encourage students to read for pure pleasure. Many of our students are able to participate in our quarterly celebrations due to the amount of non-fiction reading they are doing. We count time spent reading for projects and papers as well. In just one year, we’ve doubled the number of students who are reading.
    Yes, some of them are reading below grade level, but they have to start somewhere. We do monitor their progress and push them to read at a higher level each time. Many of our teachers encourage reading across the curriculum and purposefully create performance tasks which will enhance the students’ reading ability.

  16. In my 5th grade classroom, I have 19 out of 21 students that love reading. Personally, I believe that it is because I allow them to choose what they would like to read. I also make a big deal about giving them extra reading time. I know that many of my students do not read at home, but at least they are engaged at school.
    When I read Brian’s blog, I laughed about the students that do not read directions and then ask what is going on! I write a message on the board every morning, and I still have students that wonder what they do. It seems that we teach the students how to take tests and answer questions, but tend to forget / not have time to teach them life-long reading skills.

  17. I also agree with many of the comments left by many of the posts. However, I see instead of building a love for reading we are building a dislike for reading. Yes, children who are fluent readers do read for enjoyment and frequently at that, but children who struggle they are asked to do 2 maybe even 3 hours of direct instruction reading. Reading that is very boring and has no real quality except for the skill they may be practicing, no real literature practice. So I am a little sad, every child deserves to read for enjoyment and to be given the time to do this.

  18. It is my opinion that studnets today do not read as much as past students did. I recall that even when I was in high school none of my friends read anything that was not a requirement and neither did I. I believe that it has something to do with the fact that there are so many other forms of entertainment that are readily available and “easier”. But I also can not help but think that if parents would step up and read either to or with their child, maybe this timeless past time would not be just a thing of the past!

  19. I found this topic very interesting. I can definitel relate to this topic. I also feel that children are reading less, especially as they get older. It appears to start in fourth grade. As a result of the enormous stress being placed on standarized testing, it seems that children feel pressured to read. They don’t see it as something pleasurable and relaxing. It is important for us to find ways to incorporate reading for pleasure in our classrooms. It is also important for us to provide our students with a variety of choices. As I created my classroom library, I asked my students to help me create a list of books they would like to see in our library. We included particular authors, genres, and series in our list. I asked for donations from parents, and I visited our local discount bookstore. I found some great deals! I also try to order books through Scholastic using bonus points! Finally, I try to read a loud to my students daily. As a result, several of my students have become very fond of the Fudge series by Judy Blume. It is so exciting for me to see my students get excited about a series of books!

  20. When we are told to do something, it makes us less likely to want to do it. We stress reading so much in the younger grades that some children do not understand you can also read for pleasure. This notion carries into the upper grades.
    As teachers or parents we need to model our reading lives to our children. If they see us reading for pleasure, they are more likely to follow. I keep a reading list outside my classroom door. I constantly talk about how I love to read this book or that book. How I can’t wait to buy this book and read it. That I read every night before I go to sleep. My children see that I value reading and enjoy it.

  21. I don’t believe reading amongst students is declining. Do magazines count? What about internet articles? I myself am not a big book reader. I enjoy reading articles, whether it be online, or via magazine or newspaper. I am still reading. I believe today’s students are among this group. With the evolution of the internet, students are exposed to reading almost daily.
    On the otherhand, I do feel that students are largely effected by television and video games. At my school, we dedicate a period once a week for students to do nothing but read. It is part of our Literacy program. Students are asked to bring reading material, if they don’t, we then provide them with magazines, books, and newspapers for them to read.

  22. I am not surprised by the findings of this study. Children today have so many other options than did children 20 years ago. It’s the age of technology. They have too many games and toys and electronic devices. And if parents continue to indulge in these wants, time spent reading will continue to decline.
    I also agree with Meredith. If children don’t think that their parents and teachers and other adults around them value reading, then neither will they. Children don’t want to do what you say; they want to do what you do. Even if they just see a parent reading a newspaper every day I think that would spark some kind of interest in reading.

  23. I also was not surprised by the findings. The parents of our students are extremely busy and often do not even have time to sit and read with their kids. Many parents who are working have long shifts and often do not even see their kids before they get home. Some parents are just lazy or do not care about doing activities with their kids.
    As teachers we need to do our best to encourage our students to read, even if they are doing it on their own. We need to offer pleasurable reading time in school so that when they get home they can continue to read. We need to make kids believe that reading is important and fun. All of these ideas need to happen as young as preschool and in some cases birth.
    As a parent and teacher, some of my own experinces have proven that kids need early exposure of reading. When both my children were in the womb, I read to them every night, then as babies we read, as toddlers we read, and now in their preschool years, they love to read. By providing all of this early pleasurable reading experiences, my children enjoy books. I made it a habit to read to my kids. There is a book in every corner of my house, even in the kitchen. If im cooking my kids are at the table reading to me. They absolutely love it!
    It is a shame that many kids do not get these opportunities, but we need to do our best as teachers to provide experiences that ensure our students love books.

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