Monday, May 5, 2008

Kids Still Love the Classics, but Why Aren't Kids Reading More

Via the Washington Post, a recent survey of 3 million kids in the U.S. reveals that their favorite authors include Dr. Seuss, E.B. White, Judy Blume, S.E. Hinton, Harper Lee, Laura Numeroff, Katherine Paterson, and Gary Paulsen. I grew up with many of these authors, although Dr. Seuss always has always freaked me out a little.

Something that was very disheartening though were the number of books children read in 2007. Seventh-graders averaged 7.1 books in 2007, while 12th-graders averaged 4.5 books. Wow...why aren't kids reading more?

Read the article with links to the full survey results here.


  1. I think twelfth graders read fewer books for a number of reasons. First, books get longer: compare Holes with To Kill a Mockingbird. I mean, not only is there a length difference but there's a complexity difference. (On the PDF they have 38.6 books for 1st graders...but are they comparing Green Eggs and Ham with 12th graders' Farenheit 451? That's ridiculous!) But also, 12th graders are facing a lot more homework. I doubt the 9th-12th graders are choosing Of Mice and Men and The Crucible themselves--I remember those being a school assignment. Yes, I'm sure that after-school activities and TV watching is also an issue. The next question to ask is how much time do they spend reading outside of school assignments, reading things that they want to read (who knows, maybe they wanted to read Of Mice and Men, but how do we know? How do they know what they want to read? There are some exceptions like Harry Potter on the list.) I think the more pathetic commentary is how many of those 12th graders won't read a book after graduation. (That's not in the pdf, but I'm sure that is the case.) The question to ask is how do we get kids interested in reading beyond assignments? By 12th grade they are almost too busy to read for fun...As I said, there are some exceptions on the lists but not too many.

  2. Rebecca,
    I'm in complete agreement with what you're saying, and the complexity of the content definitely plays a huge factor in the number of books kids read. I also think that many kids don't consider reading to be fun, which is really the issue here. Kids who love reading will make time to read for fun regardless of how much homework they have or how many extracurricular activities they're involved in. I believe the experts when they say to start reading to your child as early as possible and keep reading to them and encouraging them to read throughout their childhood. It's clear that in our society, reading seems to be playing second fiddle to TV, video games, computers, etc., and we've got our work cut out for us to show children that reading can be just as fun.

  3. But can we also look at where this report is coming from?

    The Washington Post is reporting on a report put together by Renaissance Learning, aka the people in charge of Accelerated Reader. The data was taken from the AR database and most of the report reads like a commercial for how the Accelerated Reader program will save the nation's reading woes.

    However, many teachers and librarians will tell you that AR is part of the problem, not the solution.

    I rarely read for fun in high school or college. Not because I didn't like to read, I did. But I had to read so much for school (because even if you're not reading a novel for English, you still have to read your history book and a psych chapter, etc) that I didn't read outside of school. I didn't start reading for fun again until after graduation.

  4. Great points Jennie, and thanks for bringing more information about Accelerated Reader to light. I actually never experienced the woes of AR when I was teaching, so this is new to me. Also, great points about being too busy to read for fun in high school...perhaps it's not as dire as the report makes it seem.

  5. I think you're spot on Jill. The kids that love reading will make time to read. No matter how busy they say kids are, they always have time for entertainment. Usually this is spent sitting in front of the television or the computer, but some spend it in front of books. So the key is to reach out to those that leave the reading at school. If they are spending all their time in front of the computer, then bring the reading to them. I'm involved in a web project ( where we allow people to sign up to receive books over email. The idea is that a kid can sign up to have say five minutes worth of reading emailed to them every weekday. Then, the reading just becomes a part of their daily routine as they're going through their email. Finally, once a kid begins actually reading for enjoyment (outside of being forced to read in a school setting) it will work it's way more and more into their lives.

  6. Hi Tom,
    Thanks for visiting and for your feedback. The Daily Reader project sounds like a great project, and I'm definitely going to visit the site to learn more. Thanks for letting me know about it!