Students don’t like to read. These rarely discussed reasons may explain why.
Kindergarten is no longer a garden.
Kindergartners are pressured to read. Before NCLB, over twenty years ago, this was unheard of and still makes no sense. Formal reading instruction once began in first grade.
Children in the not-too-distant past were given time to enjoy the start of formal schooling, play and learned how to socialize with other children and be creative.
Some children will show up to kindergarten reading, but this doesn’t mean every child will be ready, or that they’re deficient if it takes longer.
When children get off to a rocky start in kindergarten without a sense of the joy reading can bring, why would they ever like it?
Third-grade doom and gloom: Read or else….
NCLB also made third-grade high stakes. Third grade used to be when children advanced at reading. Phonics was highlighted.
Now, children may be retained based on a test. Yet, they could still read and improve in fourth grade and beyond.
Second graders become apprehensive about third grade. Even if third-graders pass the test, reading has become a worrisome endeavor to avoid.
Students with reading difficulties still need books.
Children with reading difficulties may need help sounding out letters and words and improving fluency. Attention problems may also make it difficult to concentrate.
Still, students need opportunities to read or look at books. Teachers, librarians, and parents can help with this.
The more students practice and connect what they learn to the reading material they like, the more they’ll want to read.
But if students do little else but drill and focus on reading problems, why would they ever like to read?
No school library? Where’s a book to read?
Book bans currently draw negative attention to school libraries, but many poor schools closed libraries and let go of librarians years ago.
If schools have a well-funded library with reading resources (books, magazines, comics, graphic novels, etc.) students will be encouraged. Students with good school libraries do well on tests.
With no school library, and unreasonable book restrictions, reading won’t look like a priority. Without access to reading material how will students read even if they want to?
Technology: Too much time is easily wasted.
Education Week noted students spend 7 to 10 hours using online media (Klein, 2022).
There’s much to learn with technology, but too much time facing a screen steals time from reading books.
It starts early. How often do parents hand books to young children for soothing, when they’re busy or when a child needs to quiet down?
It might seem easier to give a child an iPad or iPhone to look at, but it doesn’t mean students will miraculously turn to reading books later.
Choice? Who gets to pick a book they like?
Children are often bombarded with leveled books, or decodables, instructional and boring. Or they’re always assigned book reports.
Middle and high school students leave school for the summer with a long list of books they must read.
Students need some freedom to choose books they like and they should be able to choose nonfiction or fiction.
If children never get to explore and choose books they want to read, why would they care about reading?
Analyzing reading makes it mechanical and boring.
Author Katharine Marsh described how dull mechanical instruction of reading has become with Common Core State Standards.
When children are forced to analyze everything they read, books become a chore.
Close reading is literary analysis usually designated for college students but now implemented in K-12. Young students might be asked to consider text complexity, exemplars, frontloading, scaffolding, details, vocabulary, the author’s purpose, opinion and intertextual questions, key details, opinions, arguments, and intertextual connections (Fisher & Fry, 2012).
Here’s a post to demonstrate how a child could become frustrated with too much analyzing. Why would reading be enjoyable?
Rewards and punishment give mixed messages about reading.
Some schools reward students for reading, unknowingly making reading a chore and embarrassing children who may be reading slower.
Reading Logs (timed reading), ability grouping, and forcing students to read out loud in class could be seen as punishment.
Some schools let students do stunts on teachers or administrators if they read or do well on a test (sliming and duct-taping adults to the wall come to mind). This is like hazing.
Reading is a joyful activity, and it shouldn’t depend on rewards or gimmicks that disgrace students and adults.
High-stakes standardized testing never ends.
High-stakes standardized tests are one-size-fits-all expectations. If a child learns to read slower, they may appear to be failing when they simply needed more time.
For years parents and educators have fought against high-stakes testing and they’ve been ignored.
For example, in 2012, there were concerns about kindergartners getting repeatedly tested, like in Chicago. Now, who’s questioning early assessment and all the testing students must undergo?
If students do poorly on tests, or they’re bored, they could feel bad as early as kindergarten about reading. They may never want to read.
The above are suggestions to reflect upon while wondering why young people don’t care to read.
Marsh, K. (2023, March 22) Why kids aren’t falling in love with reading. The Atlantic. Accessed at https://www.theatlantic.com/books/archive/2023/03/children-reading-books-english-middle-grade/673457/
Klein, A. (2022, March 28). The real reasons kids aren’t reading anymore. Education Week. Accessed at https://www.edweek.org/leadership/the-real-reasons-kids-arent-reading-more/2022/03
Fisher, Douglas & Nancy Frey. “Close reading in elementary schools.” The Reading Teacher. 66(3). November 2012.