When students choose “independent reading” books, what do they pick? According to Renaissance Learning’s 2016 report, high school students chose To Kill a Mockingbird, (9th graders), Night (10th graders), The Crucible (11th graders), and Macbeth (12th graders).
It’s hard to believe The Crucible, a 1953 play by Arthur Miller, would surpass comic books or modern fiction, but these results aren’t an indication of what children choose to read entirely of their own accord. The report is based on data from 9.9 million participants from grades K-12 in the company’s Accelerated Reading 360 program (presumably including my children, who go to a school that participates in this program). It isn’t truly independent reading: teachers set individualized goals with each student, the students choose from books selected by the program to meet those goals, and, ultimately, the students take quizzes on the books.
Interestingly, Renaissance Learning found that students are generally reading below grade level, and high school seniors are reading below the expected reading level of incoming college freshman: “By the time students finish high school, they are reading books in the 5-6 range, which is close to the level of typical fiction best sellers of about 5.6; however, their selections are one to two grades below the demands of books assigned as summer reading to incoming freshman (6.5) and typical nonfiction best sellers (7.2).”
It’s concerning that American students aren’t meeting expectations, but it’s hardly surprisingly in a country in which more than a quarter of adults haven’t read a single book in the past year. Hopefully, in the future, more high school seniors will graduate with enough of a love of reading to read more than adults do today–whatever the level.
*I learned about this report from Education Week, November 30, 2016.