Did you notice any headlines this week similar to these?
“U.S. children read, but not well or often: report”
“Major drop in teens and reading, report says”
“Kids Don’t Read Books Because Parents Don’t Read Books”
These headlines definitely caught my attention. Since we share a desire to help readers as teachers or tutors, I want to share some of the key findings from the report referred to in the headlines, as well as some things we can do to nurture an enjoyment of reading in our students.
The report that was released earlier this week was by Common Sense Media about children, teens and reading, aptly titled “Children, Teens and Reading”. Drawing from several national studies and databases, the report compiled statistics and information on current reading habits and compared them to reading habits from previous decades.
You can download the entire report here: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/children-teens-and-reading.
The “Key Findings” section on pages 5 and 6 is definitely worth reading. There are also sections on demographic variations and achievement gaps that you should be aware of in order to implement strategies that can help narrow the gaps.
A Significant Decrease in Reading
One of the key findings was that the percentage of children who read for pleasure drops significantly in adolescence. One of the studies shows that 46% of 6-8 year olds read daily for fun, compared to only 24% of 15-17 year olds. Of course as children become teenagers many are involved in after-school activities and friendships become more of a priority, leaving teens less free time than younger children. Those factors alone, however, aren’t enough to account for such a drastic plummet in reading. As children get older they have more options for what to do in their spare time, so my question is “Why aren’t they choosing reading?”
What have you noticed about how students’ reading habits are changing?
I haven’t done a national study, but I know and have tutored teens and I’m pretty sure the answer goes something like this, “Reading isn’t fun. It’s boring. I’d rather watch TV or play video games.” (If you have or work with a teen, ask them the same question and post their answer.) The way to change this attitude is to make reading enjoyable and develop a habit of reading from a young age. This goes along with another key finding from the study, “Parents can encourage reading by keeping print books in the home, reading themselves, and setting aside time daily for their children to read.” Fifty-seven percent of frequent readers had time for reading built into their daily schedule, and 44% of frequent readers had parents who read frequently. Not only is this great information to share with your students’ parents, it’s also very useful for you as a teacher because you can encourage reading in many of the same ways in your classroom.
Nurturing Reading for Enjoyment
Here are some of my ideas for what we can do as teachers to instill an appreciation for reading in our students. I think it’s important to make reading part of their daily lives. If it becomes a part of their lives (a habit like eating lunch or watching a certain TV show) they will be more likely to continue reading even when life gets busier as a teen.
Please comment below to add your ideas!
- Devote time each day to reading for enjoyment
o I remember silent reading before or after lunch every day in elementary school. During this time, students should be reading something of their choice and you should provide a good model by reading as well. I know classroom schedules are hectic, but try to set aside the same time every day for silent reading. This will get your students in the habit of daily reading and it will demonstrate that reading is important enough to make time for.
- Have a variety of reading materials available
o Build a classroom library with books, magazines, newspapers and all types of printed material for students to choose from. Reading doesn’t necessarily mean sitting down with a good book; it can be flipping through a magazine, the sports section of a newspaper or instructions for how to build a model car.
- Check out libraries and garage sales to stock up your classroom library
o My library has a used book sale quite often where you can get a bag of books for $1. Check out your library or garage sales to get a lot of books for cheap. These are also great places to find old magazines and fun things like maps and cookbooks students can read. My students used to love the old books I had on animals and different places in the world.
- Let your students take books home
o This is especially important if you know your students don’t have access to books in their home. I love getting a great deal on a ton of books because then I’m not worried if they don’t get returned when my students borrow them. Try making a separate section of your classroom library for take-home books. Another idea is to make books available for parents to take or buy during conferences. Often the books at school book fairs are new and relatively expensive, so students may only be able to buy one or two. But if you stock up on used books, you can either give them out or charge the few dollars they cost you.
- Talk about what you’re reading
o People naturally want to share things they like. Teach your students that reading is something they can share. I used to talk with my 1st graders about what book I was reading at the time. I would tell them about the characters and what was happening in the story. This was a great teaching opportunity to model how a good reader talks about books, and in the process modeling strategies like predicting or connecting with how a character is feeling.
o I also shared articles I read with my 1st grade class. We started out every day with a morning meeting, and occasionally I would introduce an article I had found for us to talk about. For example, one morning I told them about the Mars Rover, we looked at images online and read through a short article together. The next day, students designed their own Mars Rover as their morning assignment and we shared their features and special instruments.
- Read a story aloud, just for fun
o Keep a book handy that you are reading aloud to the class. It’s a great way to fill in down time and provides a ton of teaching opportunities. Let your students enjoy listening to the story and picturing the events and characters in their minds. Occasionally guide the class in a casual discussion of what’s going on in the story, or let them form groups to discuss with. Try not to attach too many assignments or worksheets to this book. Let the students experience the enjoyment that comes with sharing a story and having an open dialog.
If we can make reading a daily habit and instill a true enjoyment of reading in children, then we have laid a solid foundation for life-long readers. Reading shouldn’t always be a task placed on students’ desks; it should be a chance for them to explore and enjoy different worlds or the world around them.
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