So, How Much Are Kids Really Reading?
The library and education worlds have been astir for the past couple weeks about a report from Accelerated Reader company Renaissance Learning entitled “What Kids Are Reading: The Book-Reading Habits of Students in American Schools.” The report analyzes AR program data for the 2010-11 school year and shows the number of books and words that students in grades 1 to 12 read on average during that school year, as well as the average reading level of the 40 most commonly read books in each grade.
Hub blogger Becky O’Neil provided some fantastic commentary on this report in a post earlier this month called “Leveling Up and Keeping Score: High School Students Reading at 5th-Grade Levels, Report Says.” The biggest headline in her post, as well as in most of the news coverage of the report, is that the level of books students are reading plateaus after 5th grade. Students advance on grade level up to 5th grade, and then after that, the books that they most commonly read remain at just above the 5th grade level through 12th grade.
Yet this report is heavy with other numbers that are just as interesting, in particular the number of books and words that students are reading on average in each grade, as well as the gender differences between boys and girls when it comes to reading.
What follows are a series of graphs depicting these reading trends according to the data in the Renaissance Learning Report.
The first graph depicts the average number of words and books read by grade level. It shows that the number of words students read peaks in 6th grade and remains relatively stable through 8th grade. Yet starting in 9th grade, when students traditionally enter high school, that number drops significantly by more than 100,000 words a year and remains at that lower level through 12th grade.
This next graph shows the average number of books read per year. Unsurprisingly, that peaks in 2nd grade when students are still reading mostly picture books. But it’s interesting that the number of books students read on average declines steadily every single year after 2nd grade.
The last two graphs show data comparing the reading habits of male and female students. Girls read more words per year on average than boys at every grade level. But that divide does not expand beyond an average of 10,000 words a year until 4th grade. Girls in 4th grade read just over 15,000 more words a year than boys. That divide expands to almost 120,000 more words a year in 8th grade, and then levels off at just above 100,000 more words a year through the high school years. Yet the average reading level of the most commonly read books for each gender is relatively the same, with boys even slightly edging out girls in this area starting in 7th grade.
– Annie Schutte, currently reading Ichiro by Ryan Inzana