The Daily Dahl -- Sunday Edition
1 September, 2013
Today's reading was inspired by my curiosity in children's reading levels and the effectiveness of assigning these levels. I came upon a report of what high school kids are reading nowadays compared to high schoolers 100 years ago. This article has some interesting results.
Article title: Difficulty of US High School Reading in Decline
Found at publishingperspectives.com
Originally written by Dennis Abrams
published June 14, 2013
Renaissance Learning (discover who they are HERE and follow them on Facebook) has done the research to answer the question, "what are kids reading today" and "why do they choose the books they do?" Closing in on my college graduation, I look back at my high school career and wonder how things have changed, what is the next generation bringing to university? Renaissance Learning has actually completed a study and made a report on the differences of reading levels between high schoolers today and those 100 years ago. It appears that kids and teens are choosing to read books intended for younger audiences. That is, the level of difficulty in reading has dropped noticeably. In 1907, Shakespeare was among two of the top three books assigned in high school courses. I remember from my time in high school, reading one Shakespeare play in my required English course, but all other Shakespeare I read were in elective courses.
Comparing the lists of top 3 required books of 1907 and 2012, I don't think the required books of today are without merit. They are quality books and I have no protest of them being required in high school. To Kill a Mockingbird, The Crucible, and Night were all books (and plays) I loved in high school and I'm glad they are still on the required reading lists. There is a lot to learn from these books.
While my interests don't truly lie in education, I think what kids are required to read in school impacts what they choose to read outside of school, and that's where I'm most curious. With the wave of YA popularity, it appears that many high school students choose to read books that are intended for the middle school level. Abram interviews Eric Stickney, the educational research director for Renaissance Learning. Stickney comments that "after the late part of middle school, students generally don't continue to add the level of difficulty in the books they want to read." According to the 2013 report, one of the most read titles in grades 7-12 is The Hunger Games. As a senior in college, I wonder what has intrigued me to read all of these middle grade level books? Because its true, even after high school, many students choose to read lower difficulty books, myself and my peers included. Personally, I don't believe this to be much of a concern to the nation. Don't get me wrong, I think every kid needs to be introduced to higher difficulty reading, but as long as the kids are reading I'm happy about that. Hopefully some new authors will arise to challenge today's youth with more entertaining, yet profound and critical literature.
Lastly, I want to point out that Stickney argues "That just because the books students are being assigned to read are less complex than in prior years, this does not necessarily mean that they cannot read or comprehend books at higher levels, nor can we assume that assigning more complex texts would necessarily lead to improvements in achievement."
This leads me to wonder, does all reading promote academic and personal growth? Or does one become stationary in learning without the increased difficulty of reading? Renaissance Learning has done some great research so far, perhaps they will carry on and extrapolate this data even further. I'd be curious to see the results.
Read the full report HERE
Abrams, Dennis. "Difficulty of US High School Reading in Decline." Publishing Perspectives. Ed. Edward Nawotka. N.p., 14 June 2013. Web. 1 Sept. 2013. <http://publishingperspectives.com/2013/06/difficulty-of-us-high-school-reading-in-decline/>.