Yesterday NPR asked, "Why Aren't Teens Reading Like They Used To?" And the floodgates were opened: television, YouTube, Internet, video games, electronic devices...but I don't agree. So I added my opinion to the mix.
Julia Jackson McCready: High stakes standardized testing changed the teaching of reading into skill and drill factories. Think of how the wonderful show "Reading Rainbow" was ditched in favor of skill based shows.
This is the discussion that followed, thanks to the Reply function on Facebook:
You're absolutely right. My daughters grew up watching PBS and I'm sad to say that my granddaughters are not. Reading Rainbow with LeVar Burton was my guide to library books for kids. It's a shame.
Julia Jackson McCready My 13 year old daughter learned to hate reading in school--read the "selection" then fill in the circles. Ugh. Where is the pleasure of beautiful literature in that?
We got around that by having a reward system at home for reading. And I think my son was the last generation of Reading Rainbow kids. He is 19 now. But from 6 to 12 we had a reward system for reading more books and he got to pick out what he wanted to read.
100% agree! My oldest daughter, 29, LOVED reading all through school. She graduated just one year into NCLB (2002). My youngest, who graduated last year, HATED reading all through school, even though she (like my oldest) was designated Talented and Gifted in reading. The way reading was taught to her was totally different than my oldest: every reading was followed by some sort of Q and A aimed at preparing kids for high stakes standardized tests. A year out of school, she finally reads for pleasure again. Now with the increased testing pressure and Common Core standards emphasis on non-fiction and "close reading" it's rare to find kids who think reading is anything but a distasteful chore. If reading is ONLY for finding information and answering a question, why would you want to do THAT? It's so much easier to google. It's sad what we are allowing people who know nothing about education to force on our schools.
Teachers definitely recognize the need for leisure reading, at least all the teachers I worked with did. The problem is often the administration who sees it as a waste of time, when they could be teaching for the standardized tests. If a teacher's students are testing well, then they have more leeway when it comes to silent reading time. When I was a school librarian, every class had scheduled library time once a week. I dedicated half that period to silent reading. But as soon as the teachers were instructed that their kids weren't performing up to standards, guess which "nonessential" class was sacrificed? Library! Even though it was only 45 min once a week. Good thing I was able to convey how awesome the library and reading in general was, as the kids would come in before and after school, or during class when they'd finished their work! They LOVED the library, because they got to read whatever they wanted, and I didn't make them do reports or test their reading comprehension. They were able to read for the pure enjoyment. For them, it WAS a leisure activity.
Recently my daughter discovered Fan Fiction on the internet. For the first time in her life she is enjoying reading. She reads and reads and reads. A lot of it is poorly written. And she knows that. But she reads it because she wants to. I would call it a guilty pleasure, but luckily she feels no guilt. The interesting thing? She has begun to notice that she can get through school reading assignments more quickly.
Funny that. Has no one done a study on how reading for pleasure can improve your overall reading skills? Really?
I leave you with the best, and most devastating comment I received:
Whoa. You just blew my mind. That's so spot-on. School sucked the joy out of reading for me.
It would seem that No Child Left Behind left reading--for pleasure--behind. Now, what do we do about it?