Sent to T/H/E Journal, December 10, 2014
To the editor:
"Student Reading Practices Lag Far Behind National Goals" (Dec. 9) claims that young people these days are reading books that don't challenge them, that is, fiction written below their grade level. The data comes from a report published by the Renaissance Learning company, and is based on what young people read when they participate in the Accelerated Reader program in school. Accelerated Reader is a commercial program owned by Renaissance Learning that gives readers points on tests based on what they read, and awards prizes in exchange for the points.
What the report really shows is that students have discovered that they can earn more points by reading easier books. Contrary to the Renaissance Learning report, previous studies have shown that reading that young people choose on their own is typically at grade level, or harder than the reading typically assigned by teachers, and gets more challenging as children mature.
This suggests that Accelerated Reader dumbs down students' reading practices.
Self-selected reading at grade level: Shin, F. & Krashen, S. (2007). Summer Reading: Program and Evidence. New York: Allyn & Bacon.
Self-selected reading harder than assigned reading: Southgate, V., Arnold, H., and Johnson, S. (1981). Extending Beginning Reading. London: Heinemann Educational Books.