Reading for Pleasure or Duty…….

May 23, 2010 at 9:19 am | Posted in uncategorized | 2 Comments

Posted by Heidi Bossard

An article published March 24, 2010 claims that our nation’s schoolchildren have made little or no progress in reading proficiency in recent years.  The results were based on the largest nationwide reading test entitled the National Assessment of Educational Progress.  The scores reflect a seventeen year trend of “sluggish achievement” in reading.

The potential cause for stagnant reading scores is the decline in the time students spend reading for pleasure.  An article by David Mehegan further claims that children spend the majority of their free time surfing the internet, texting on cell phones or watching television.   The lure of technology based applications has pulled young people away from reading.

In 2007 the National Endowment for the Arts published the following claims based as a result of their research:

  • Only 30 percent of 13-year-olds read almost every day.
  • The number of 17-year-olds who never read for pleasure increased from 9 percent in 1984 to 19 percent in 2004.
  • Almost half of Americans between ages 18 and 24 never read books for pleasure.”
  • The average person between ages 15 and 24 spends 2 to 2 1/2 hours a day watching TV and 7 minutes reading.

It is sad to see the minuscule amount of Americans reading for pleasure.  The study did not measure pleasure reading for young readers, however it appears that by the time children reach middle school reading for pleasure is limited and continues to decline.

This data is very concerning.  It raises the question of where did things go wrong.  I have witnessed the excitement of watching my first grader learn how to read, and yet the thirst to read books is also rivaled by his desire to play his Nintendo DS (hand held game system).  I believe it is important to encourage reading for pleasure in children of all ages.  In our fast paced society we often find ourselves reading for duty and neglecting the pleasure of reading.

The textbook Subjects Matter promotes creating a reading community within the classroom.  The idea is to provide students with the opportunity to actively share and discuss books of interest.  I agree that establishing a time for pleasure reading is essential in creating lifetime learners.  Teachers are often only focused on students reading for course content.  The research supports the need for teachers to embrace pleasure reading at the secondary level.

By what other means should we attempt to preserve the love for pleasure reading?  Are there additional ways to reconnect the middle school and high school aged students’ love of reading?

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  1. It is a sad state of affairs when the topic of ‘reading for pleasure’ is brought up in today’s world. After seeing the statistics you have posted it reinforces the notions that I already had conceived about this topic. There is so much more’ fun’ technology in the world today that kids are enthralled in. I do not know if it is possible to reconnect kids to reading for pleasure. How do you tell a kid to stop playing a video game or texting and read a book? A lot of this would have to come from parents at home.
    In the classroom however you can do everything possible to try to gets kids to read. Maybe you could talk about a recent book that you have read. In the classroom you could have a bookshelf of novels. But as a teacher I find it extremely difficult to change the culture of an entire society. Telling a kid that reading is educational and will help you in school is not good enough.
    We are no longer living in the 50’s, 60’s or 70’s. There are hundreds of TV channels, plenty of video games, ipods, cell phones, websites etc. Books are no longer the most prominent source of relief/entertainment. I do not know if there is a way to get students back to reading for pleasure. Is the only option left to overload our students with content area reading to make up for their lack of ‘reading for pleasure’? I do know that these test scores will continue to fall based on the data coming in. I am not hopeful for the future.

  2. Reading for pleasure or duty: What a great observation. Today’s students definitely do not take time to read for pleasure. And it’s not just students who are at fault. We are a family that falls directly into the trap that Heidi’s blog warns of. When my children were young, nights were always ended with reading together. As they grew up, that time grew shorter and more rare. While I still take the time before I drop off to sleep to read a novel, usually one with intrigue and danger, I find myself taking no time during the day or early evening to read the paper, magazines or anything else. I find other things to do. And my kids are usually so busy with school work or extracurricular activities, it SEEMS that they have no time to read for pleasure. Heidi asks what can be done? I have a few ideas… and I just might take them to heart myself.
    I believe that school curriculums could be changed to include different kinds of reading which might include works of fiction. Then these works of fiction could tie in to many subjects. Heidi mentions “creating a reading community within classrooms.” This is something that could be implemented without sweeping curriculum changes. In Subjects Matter there are great lists of books that could be used.
    Parents should model more reading within the home. How about instituting a no-TV night at home. Each person could chose their own night just they don’t miss any of their favorite TV shows. Allow each member to chose a family book for everyone else to read. A family could then make it a point to have at least one family dinner during the week to start discussions. Another idea for discussion time would be during transportation time in the car or van. With a common book being read, discussions could take place almost anywhere.
    Some clever ideas within the class or in your home could start recreating a love of pleasure reading.


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