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Tag: reading levels

A Defense of “Weak” YA Fiction

“Tackling rich literature is the best way to prepare students for careers and college, said [Sandra] Stotsky, who blames mediocre national reading scores on weak young adult literature popular since the 1960s.” (From The Independent)

Are you spluttering in outraged confusion yet? This quote appeared in several recent articles about the Common Core State Standards in English and promptly caused a library listserv flamewar. Sadly, I couldn’t find out much more about the context for Stotsky’s quote and why she thinks of YA literature as “weak” when it truly has never been more creative or thought-provoking. Unable to comprehend the sheer magnitude of out-of-touch-ness displayed by this quote, I turned to the Pueblo City-County Library’s Teen Advisory Board (thanks Anthony and Cory!) to tell me what real young adults thought about it.

Has “weak” YA literature made students mediocre readers?

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.

Reading Level of Most Commonly Read Books by 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.

Leveling Up and Keeping Score: High School Students Reading at 5th-Grade Levels, Report Says

Earlier this week, I came across a headline to raise the eyebrows of all of us lovers of reading: “American High School Students Are Reading Books At 5th-Grade-Appropriate Levels: Report.” Say what? As I skimmed the article, my bias meter went off–the report in question was authored by Renaissance Learning, Inc., creator of the Accelerated Reader (AR) reading assessment software. Wouldn’t Renaissance Learning have a vested interest in continued use of the AR software to improve reading abilities assessed as too low by … Renaissance Learning? Plus, I often resented AR for causing my most enthusiastic booktalks to be met with the response, “It sounds good, but I’m only allowed to read books at my AR level.” Arrow to a librarian’s heart, those words!


Still, I realized that–I can admit it–I have my own biases. I gravitate toward the cautionary views of Jim Trelease and Susan Straight; I like students to be able to take a book that sounds interesting to them without feeling like it’s worthless without a measurement or reward. But I’ve never tried to get to know or use AR, so I took it upon myself to do so, as well as to read their whole gosh-dang report. Phew! And with the caveat that I am not a teacher, reading specialist, or mathematician, here are some of my thoughts in the spirit of discussion: