Tuesday, March 27, 2012

American High School Students Average Reading Level is 5th Grade

This headline: American High School Students Are Reading Books At 5th-Grade-Appropriate Levels
 jumped out at me several days ago. I had just been labeling books for Accelerated Reading quizzes and noticed that an incoming copy of Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer, was only a 4.4. That translates to a 4th grade month 1 reading level. I thought this can't be, I've done something wrong, so I double checked my information. It was indeed a 4.4.
(Granted, I've read the book and wasn't assuming the quality was great, but that the content was intended for an older than 5th grade child).

My concern increased as I labeled a copy of The House at Pooh Corner, by A.A. Milne, which was a 5.1 (grade 5 and 1 month). The "interest level" of the Twilight book was 9th grade, The House at Pooh Corner book was 3rd grade.

Wait, you may think, this doesn't make ANY sense. Which I agree, it doesn't.

Of course the Milne book was written in 1928 and the Meyer book in 2005.
So what has happened over 82 years to considerably drop the reading level on a book intended for high school students?

Why have we dumbed everything down for students?

Last year I observed an older elementary class being read an adapted version of A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. I asked why they weren't being read the original Dickens' text? Too difficult was the quck reply. Granted the reading level of the text is an 8.6, however they were having the story read aloud to them. When children are exposed to more sophisticated text through read aloud, their vocabulary and comprehension naturally improve....

The above article reports:
"The single most important predictor of student success in college is their ability to read a range of complex text with understanding," Coleman writes. "If you examine the top 40 lists of what students are reading today in 6th–12th grade, you will find much of it is not complex enough to prepare them for the rigors of college and career. Teachers, parents, and students need to work together to ensure that students are reading far more challenging books and practicing every year reading more demanding text. Students will not likely choose sufficiently challenging text on their own; they need to be challenged and supported to build their strength as readers by stretching to the next level."

How many parents continue to read aloud to their older children? Once children have learned to read, they need to continue to be read aloud to, all the way trough their teen years.
So please...read to your kids.
Just a few minutes every day can make a difference.
Let your children see you enjoying books, and reading for pleasure.
Encourage them to try their hand at books that are a strugge for them to read.
Challenge them.

Now, I'm off to pratice what I preach....happy reading everyone!

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