Reading in School, Reading for Fun

It is true that a love for reading needs to be nurtured not only in school but likewise inside children's homes. It is, however, much more practical to focus on how much a school contributes to a child's inclination to read since it is only within a school that educators could effectively draw and implement programs that enhances literacy. Schools cannot dictate what happens at home, but schools can design and support a curriculum that helps children develop a love for reading.

In 2014, YouGov conducted a study for Scholastic to explore what conditions correlate with children reading books for fun. Obviously, there are various factors at home that are expected to correlate with children's reading behavior. How much a parent reads to a child is a top factor. The recent study shows that more than half (54%) of children ages 0-5 are read aloud at home 5-7 days a week. At least seventy percent of homes surveyed read a book to a child before age one. And more than eighty percent of children across all ages (6-17 years) say they either like or love it when books are read aloud at home. These numbers are indeed encouraging when it comes to reading at home. The following shows that the attitude towards reading at home for young children is positive across most homes in the United States:

Above copied from Kids and Family Reading Report, 5th Ed.

Thus, with reading becoming so prevalent at home, what happens in school becomes even more significant. The survey shows that reading in school does provide distinctions among young readers. First, children tend to read for fun more at home than in school:

Above copied from Kids and Family Reading Report, 5th Ed.

With libraries and teachers, reading for fun should have been more prevalent in school. Children from poor families do read more for fun in school, but even with this segment, reading for fun while not in school is still significantly higher:

Above copied from Kids and Family Reading Report, 5th Ed.

Across schools, it is also apparent that independent reading is not common:

Above copied from Kids and Family Reading Report, 5th Ed.

The above charts that examine school characteristics/factors are more in line with the overall picture of reading among children in the United States:

The above correlation only shows that telling parents to read books aloud to their children is probably no longer what we need to emphasize. What is now key to children developing a love for reading is what happens in school.

Schools can make the difference. And there are educators who are finding ways to do so. I am very impressed, for example, with Brian Butler, the principal at Mason Crest Elementary School, the school my son attends. Yesterday, Fairfax county decided not to open schools because of a winter weather advisory. Continuity in education is important not so much because the lessons need to be delivered on schedule but more on sustaining the engagement of students in their learning. Butler decided to record himself reading a children book to encourage students in his school to continue their learning during a snow day:

It is amazing what technology nowadays could do. My son gave his full attention to the video.

He was likewise inspired to read another book and even work with mathematics activities recommended by his teacher:

Screen capture of Glogster
It is true that factors outside school are important but it is equally true that schools can still profoundly influence student learning.