A report recently came out that states that children are spending less time reading for pleasure than decades ago. This is leading to large gaps in proficiency. Here are some of the facts:
- The percentage of 9-year-old children who read for pleasure once or more a week dropped from 81% in 1984 to 76% in 2013.
- 1/3 of 13-year-olds and 1/2 of 17-year-olds read for pleasure less than twice a year.
- About 1/3 of fourth grade students are “proficient” in reading and another 1/3 scored below “basic” reading skills.
Now the report is not taking into account stories that are read online or on social media, but still this is quite shocking. The pace is growing faster every year with more and more students not reading for pleasure. However when they are reading, they are reading for a long period of time, but the fact that their reading for pleasure is dropping worries me. I know students are reading more and more in school each year, but the they are reading there for information. The book is used for a reading log assignment they are reading more to answer the are being asked to identify for the book (ex. characters traits, central problem, resolution etc) They are not reading simply because they want to read the story.
I have witnessed first hand the drop in pleasure reading for older students. Most of my older students come looking for the most popular books (Fault in Our Stars, Maze Runner, Divergent) all of which are movies or becoming movies. And I gather that they are choosing those books simply because they are the most popular. A few students I have truly test me (daily). I am always trying to find books to give them that I think they would like (one student I think might read every book I have in my library). I have resorted to giving them books from my own personal collection. These students (the voracious readers) are becoming an anomaly simply because they do read so much and all for pleasure.
I am not sure how to combat this issue. I have taken seminars and attended workshops and spoke with colleagues and read books on trying to reach those older YA readers. And every trick I try I am not seeing the results I would like. These students are generation where technology is king and computer games are way more interesting than a book. This is a constant struggle for all language arts teachers and librarians. How to get the students to read for pleasure. How to get them to see past the screen and to the page. How to show them that reading for the 30 minutes each day will have a greater impact on their lives in general than staring at a computer screen for the same amount of time (unless they are reading on that screen than that is OK). But I hope that someday I will crack the code and find the answer to this problem.
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