Tuesday, May 6, 2008

What ARE kids reading?

Check out the report recently published by Renaissance Learning, which explores the reading habits of children in American schools. Their report is particularly interesting because, as they say in the introduction to the report, it is "the first comprehensive report to provide detailed information about books schoolchildren are actually reading. While Amazon.com and other online booksellers boast lists of best sellers and a local librarian can advise on which books are in frequent circulation, neither can tell you if any of these books were ever opened, much less if they were read cover to cover."

The report goes on to list the top twenty books read last year by students in grades 1 through 12, by gender, U.S. region, and reading achievement level. I can't with any authority whatsoever speak to their means of gathering data for this study, but I found their lists fascinating! The first grade list, for example, lists Green Eggs and Ham as the most popular book - but when divided according to gender, boys had a slight preference for Dr. Seuss's The Foot Book, with Green Eggs coming in second place, and with girls it was the reverse. In the fourth grade list, however, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume ranked number one for boys and girls. Neat, huh? I love this kind of thing!

This is a fascinating look at the books children read at school, and I love how they've also divided the data by gender and region. The study also includes interesting articles about reading by authors including S.E. Hinton, Mary Pope Osborne, and Christopher Paul Curtis. What a great tool for librarians, teachers and parents!

8 comments:

  1. It really is a very interesting list. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. I didn't have a good librarian at any of my schools growing up so more times than not the only library books I read were poetry and non-fiction about animals and the like (at least until I figured out the system). Of course at home I was reading Mary Poppins, Where the Red Fern Grows, Big Red, Shiloh, etc.

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  3. That is a fascinating list. It was really cool to take a minute and get a perspective on my kids' reading habits.

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  4. You are welcome, Nymeth - hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

    Ladytink - I did have to wonder what the differences would be between books that the kids would read in school (and the selection of books that are offered to the kids) and books that the kids would be more likely to pick up at the public library or local bookstore (presumably more graphic novels or "challenged" books not usually available at school). That said, in the midst of all these depressing articles about no one reading anymore, it was fun to see that kids are, in fact, reading - and are enjoying some excellent books!

    Rachael - thanks! I enjoyed it, too. It's nice to get a change from what librarians and teachers say is good, and what kids really like and - as the intro to the study says - books they actually read from beginning to end.

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  5. I would guess that Renaissance Learning bases its data on which Accelerated Reader (AR) tests kids are taking, which skews the results somewhat. Having a daughter at a school that uses the AR program, I know that she often reads books solely because she needs to take an AR test in her level and not because that's what she wants to read. A lot of the time, the school hasn't purchased tests for the other books she's read or books she wants to read so she just reads whatever she can get her hands on so that she can take a test. Now, some of the tests she takes were on books she chose regardless of their AR status, so the data probably does at least somewhat reflect kids' reading patterns.

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  6. sounds like an interesting study.

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  7. Thanks for your input, Somer - I was wondering if that was the situation. I'm glad your daughter gets to choose at least some of the books she reads at school! That's a shame they don't have the tests for some of the books the kids want to read. I've heard mixed reviews of the AR program, from teachers and parents, but I haven't any experience with it at this point.

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  8. Molly - I thought it was really interesting, especially the breakdowns of the different age groups. It's also a good way of getting an idea what books are typical for different grade levels, which I often have trouble with, since kids' reading abilities are so varied.

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