At Evanced and Evanced Games, we are deeply concerned with helping libraries and schools fulfill their mission to engage readers of all ages. As a nation, we have to do a better job not only teaching our children to read, but raising a new generation of truly literate citizens.
Accomplishing that task is easier said than done, however. Reading failure is a serious national problem and cannot simply be dismissed as the effects of poverty, immigration, or the learning of English as a second language.
A statement to the Committee on Labor and Human Resources revealed that 44 percent of the nation’s fourth-grade children had little to no mastery of the knowledge and skills necessary to perform reading activities at the fourth-grade level. By 2009, the percentage reading below grade level had gradually improved to 33 percent but has remained unchanged through 2012.
We are getting better, but not nearly fast enough. By the time kids reach high school, many have fallen hopelessly behind.
Two-thirds of eighth-graders do not read at grade level. Only one-third of all students entering high school are proficient in reading. Within this group, only about 15 percent of African-American students and 17 percent of Hispanic students are proficient.
We don’t have to be resigned to accept things as they stand now. There are things we can do to make a difference.
Fifty percent of reading difficulties are believed to be preventable if students are given effective language development experiences in preschool and kindergarten and effective reading instruction in the primary grades (Slavin et al., Every Child, Every School: Success for All, 1996).
Even when kids do read, they may not be reading enough. Despite the importance placed on reading for fun, only about three in 10 children can be classified as high-frequency readers who read books for fun every day.
Reading for fun isn’t child’s play, after all. It’s the gateway to producing life-long readers and learners. We simply have to do a better job of motivating our “early readers” to become “regular readers”. High-frequency readers are more likely to have positive self-perceptions and to associate strong reading skills with future success.
Age 8 is the critical drop-off age for reading engagement. Older children are less likely to see benefits to reading and are less engaged in reading for fun. While more than 40 percent of children ages 5 to 8 say they are high-frequency readers; by ages 9 to 11 that proportion drops to 29 percent.
By the time kids get to high school, it’s already too late for most. Almost half of the 15- to 17-year olds are low-frequency readers, compared with 14 percent of 5- to 8-year-olds.
In the coming days, we’ll examine strategies and techniques for engaging readers at a young age and look for ways that together we can do our part to battle against the literacy crisis.