Saturday, November 3, 2007

Facts and Myths About Reading

Last week I was the "guest author" at Renaissance Learning's West Coast Conference in Sacramento, CA. The people from Rennaissance were very supportive and treated me very well—they also had really cool Wisconsin accents! I had a blast! I signed tons of books, met lots of great teachers and librarians and spread the news about the Joe Sherlock series to people from all over California, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada.

If you haven't heard of Renaissance, they make Accelerated Reader (and other cool products, too). Accelerated Reader is a system of software quizes students can take after reading a book to test their comprehension and reading skill as well as chart their progress as a reader. It's also a great motivational tool that gets kids motivated to read more. When my books first came out, many people asked me if my books were "AR." At that time I had no idea what they were talking about, now I do. For some teachers and librarians, it's a key part of the buying decision. (I'd really like to take some of the tests on my books and see how I do!)

One of the things I picked up at the conference was a brochure published by Renaissance entitled "Facts and Myths About The Reading Gap and How to Close It." It has tons of good little factoids that are relevant to this blog. Here are a few nuggets of Truth:

Girls read better than boys. Fact.
The 2004 National Assessment of Educational Progress reported that in all assessed grades—4th, 8th, and 12th—girls scored higher in reading achievement than boys. Girls outscored boys by 5 scale points in 4th grade, 10 points in 8th grade, and 14 points in 12 grade. (Yikes! C'mon, boys! What's up with that?)

Boys don't read. Myth.
Boys do read—they just do not read as much as girls. Girls spend more time reading books than boys at every age starting in first grade, and the difference increases over time. (I know that's the case for grown ups, so the trend starts early!)

Boys read primarily nonfiction books. Girls read primarily fiction books. Myth.
While it is true that boys read more nonfiction books than girls, the vast majority of books both girls and boys read throughout all grades is fiction. (According to the chart in the booklet, the difference is only a few percentage points, almost statistically insignificant!)

Internet reading helps to improve reading about as much as book reading. Myth.
Studies demonstrate that students tend to scan Internet sites looking at headlines and key information, versus engaging in close reading shown to be essential to buidling good reading skills. A large-scale worldwide study to children's reading habits showed that of all the kinds of reading—such as Internet, newspaper, magazine and books—book reading is the single best predictor of reading ability worldwide. (So enough with the "but Jimmy reads a lot on the Internet!" stuff!)

Anyway, that's some food for thought. And just the tip of the iceberg of all the stuff I picked up. So let me know if you've used AR and how you've seen it help kids. And do let me know if you've taken the Joe Sherlock quizes and how you think I'd do on them!