Saturday, February 27, 2016

A decline in reading?

Submitted to the Washington Post, Feb. 27
In my published review of the research, I concluded that there is no evidence that teenagers are reading less than teenagers of the past. ("If you want kids to read more, don't treat reading like a boring obligation," Feb. 25.) They do just as much book reading as teenagers did 65 years ago, and are more involved in reading and writing in general when computer use is included in the analysis.
There have been complaints about American teenagers' low levels of literacy and knowledge for over the last 100 years. Harvard complained about poor writing on entrance exams in 1874 and 1894. Thomas Biggs of Teachers College, in 1930, wrote that high school English classes resulted in written English that was often  "shocking in their evidence of inadequate achievement." Ravitch and Finn, in 1987, asked What Do Our 17-Year Olds Know, and concluded that they didn't know much about history or literature.
If we believe these reports, our high school students were terrible in 1874 and have been getting worse ever since. Another interpretation is that there has been no decline; we have always been expecting too much, and are, for some reason, over-eager to scold teen-agers and their schools.
Stephen Krashen

Krashen, S. 2011. Why We Should Stop Scolding Teenagers and Their Schools: Frequency of Leisure Reading.  Language Magazine 11 (4): 18-21, 2011.  (posted at - scroll down)
original article:

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