Does high school unmake readers?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a voracious, insatiable learner.
A really key part of that is reading. You learn, even when you are “reading for fun”. When talking to other people, I have to monitor my language and references, if I want to really communicate with them. Not everyone will understand relating taking a work assignment to the Charge of the Light Brigade, for example.
You would think, then, that I would have loved high school. After all, that’s supposed to be about learning, right?
Certainly, there were parts of it I did love. I had a couple of great teachers. In particular, I was lucky to be able to take a science fiction class with a wonderful teacher.
I remember, though, having an epiphany.
I had noticed (with dismay) that my reading speed had slowed. It hit me as to a possible reason.
In reading for school, they were taking the fun out of it. They were wanting me to constantly analyze what I was reading.
In addition, there was a lot of rote memorization, and not as much about connections. We learned history, to some extent, by learning dates and names, not motivations and relationships.
I believed then (and still do now) that that approach was making me a less effective reader.
for the heads up on this
which, unfortunately, confirms that many fewer kids report reading for fun at age 17 than do at age 13.
The report covers a lot of topics, but here’s a statistic that may suggest that school degrades reading for fun: 53% of nine-year olds report reading for fun every day, while only 19% of seventeen-year olds do.
In testing my hypothesis, though, I have to point out that the drop is even greater going from nine to thirteen years old than it is for going from thirteen to seventeen.
So, it might not be just high school…but reading in school generally. 🙂
Of course, I could just be conflating two things…maybe it’s not the school, maybe it is other factors. Perhaps kids are more social by age seventeen, and may have less time for essentially solitary pursuits. Maybe a significant portion of seventeen-year olds work, or have after school activities.
While I don’t want to take too much away from the report and I do recommend that you read it (and/or look at the infographic, also at the site linked above), I want to mention one more thing.
In 1984, 9% of seventeen-year olds say that they “never” or “hardly ever” read. That number is up to 27% today.
I’m going to have to think about that, to come up with ways that it is a positive. I almost always can find more of a positive than a negative, and I can almost always find both.
Right offhand, though, I can’t think of much that I believe is more valuable than reading…
What do you think? Could the reporting be incorrect in some way…perhaps kids today are more likely to downplay their reading, an misrepresent it on a survey? Could kids be defining reading in a different way? Is it a case of opportunity? In that case, will e-books reverse the trend? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.
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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.