It should come as no surprise that research tells us in general – the more you read, the better you read. What might be surprising are the statistics of how much reading is, or more accurately, isn’t happening.
On their free time (weekends and holidays) teenagers spend only 4.2 minutes reading a day. Only 27% of middle school aged students report reading for fun on a daily basis, while 33% report reading only a few times a year at most. It gets worse for older teens, of whom only 19% read for fun daily with almost half (45%) report reading only a few times a year.
As can be expected, at PFFS reading is embedded in all of our content classes and explicit reading instruction is of course part of our English Language Arts curriculum. But beyond being just competent readers, we want to develop avid readers, people who will always plan to bring a book with them when they travel, spend weekend time in bookstores, follow the careers of their favorite writers, do daily checks of their favorite bloggers, etc.
We know that while a few of our students come to PFFS already loving books, at least an equal number of our kids have had a negative experience with reading. We believe that if we can turn that experience around and create for them a positive experience with reading, we can help cultivate a habit that will serve them well their entire lives.
With this in mind we adopted our “Literacy” program, which in other schools is often called Sustained Silent Reading or DEAR (Drop Everything And Read). The thinking behind this time is that when students have choice to read what they want, are exposed to lots of high interest reading materials and given a consistent space and time that will support extended reading, students will develop independent reading habits. Over the last 11 of years watching our Literacy time, I have seen it work – not with every kid, but with most. There is evidence that it is working when we see our students reading before school, swapping novels, creating a cue for a favorite shared book. Sometimes we even catch someone trying to sneak in some reading during a regular class, and I always feel conflicted when I have to instruct them to “put that book away.” Enjoying reading is the norm at PFFS, not taboo as it can be at other schools.
What can parents do to support their children’s reading? This week is Pima County Public Library’s Love of Reading Week. How about a family outing to your local library to explore what services are available and perhaps checkout a stack of books together.
Finally, for all you parents reading this blog, I want to encourage you to think about reading aloud to your children, especially when they are young, but even continuing into their teenage years. It will be an opportunity for you to bond over compelling stories, discuss your respective values over dilemmas that aren’t necessarily personal to their lives and therefore safer to discuss and it will help you to carve out dedicated together time which often becomes increasingly challenging when competing with peers, screens. Reading to my son, was one of my greatest pleasure as a mother, until one day it stopped. Enjoy it while you can.
Fat, indestructable board books —
Robert Munchen, read over and over and over —
Absorbing the morés of modern life —
Junie B. Jones, giggling at the dialect of a 10 year old southern General —
Saving the world in Pendragon, in Percy Jackson, in Ender’s Game, in Ranger’s Apprentice.
But then one night
You leaned down to give me a hug, whispering,
And with your iPad in hand, shut the door.
With no other option to play,
I stealthily downloaded your AP Lit syllabus
Silently read As I Lay Dying
On the chance that somehow in conversation
Faulkner’s stream of consciousness and multiple narrators
Would come up
On your way to bed.