Teenage reading ability slips back to primary school level once they reach 16

Children’s reading habits decline at an ‘alarming’ rate when they reach secondary school, a worrying study has revealed on World Book Day. This is from the Daily Mail… 

The difficulty of books pupils choose and the amount they read show a steady increase until they are 10.

But interest plateaus at this point and then plummets, until by 16 many are picking the same books as eight-year-olds and reading less than seven-year-olds.

Tests also suggest children’s ability to understand what they have read tails off as they progress through school.

The What Kids Are Reading report accused ‘teachers and librarians [of] not successfully encouraging pupils to read harder books’.

It added: ‘After Year 6 the book difficulty level flatlines to below the actual age of the pupils, which is alarming.

‘Furthermore, it does so with a step change downwards, rather than a continuation of the gentle decline which is seen in the upper years of the primary school.

But teenagers interest in reading plummets until the age of 16 when they are picking the same books as children aged eight

‘It appears that there is something seriously amiss with the way secondary schools encourage young people to read.’ 

Pre-A’Level children’s reading peaks at around Year 6, when they read more than 240,000 words in books that are difficulty level four in a system that gives an 11.8 rating for the most difficult books.

After this, standards level off. By the end of their GCSE exam year the amount they read each year has sunk around 80 per cent to 53,376 words – 10,000 words fewer than Year 3 pupils get through.

They also opt for books with a difficulty level of 3.3, the same as Year 4 pupils.

Favourite books among Year 11 and Year 4 pupils include the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, by Jeff Kinney, and Roald Dahl’s The Twits.

The report looked at the reading habits of 300,000 British schoolchildren at 1,605 schools between August 2011 and July 2012.

It was compiled by Professor Keith Topping, professor or education and social research at Dundee University, on behalf of Renaissance Learning, a U.S. education software company.

Books’ difficulty levels were calculated using a formula based on average sentence length, average word length, word difficulty and total number of words.

Just one non-fiction book appeared among the list of ‘favourite books’ among all school years – a biography of Wayne Rooney.

From Years 7 to 9 the top five non-fiction books were all about sports stars.

The report added: ‘Are teachers and librarians in both primary schools and secondary schools giving children enough encouragement to read non-fiction books?’ Sixth formers showed a marked improvement in the amount of books they read and their difficulty – although researchers put this down to the calibre of pupils who stay on at school to do A-levels, rather than a general change in attitude.

More at:  Teenage reading ability slips back to primary school level once they reach 16

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