Young people are reading more — but not improving their reading skills — writes Dan Willingham on The Answer Sheet.
More than ever, we are surrounded by printed words. We read text messages. We read web pages. We read instructions and information on computer games.
But if we’re reading more, why is literacy dropping?
Reading comprehension is not a skill, Willingham writes. Once a reader has practiced decoding the letters and become a fluent reader, comprehension requires background knowledge. “If you know a bit about the topic, it’s much easier to understand,” he writes.
. . . A likely solution to the conundrum is that all that extra reading we’re doing is pretty lightweight.
On Core Knowledge Blog, teacher Carol Jago comments on what teachers should make of the research.
32 years in the classroom with teenagers convinced me that more is more when it comes to reading. Relentless readers develop the ease of fluency but learn to intuit how different books need to be read differently, sometimes a tortoise, sometimes a hare. As they gobble up book after book – good, bad, and indifferent – they develop a sense of how stories work. Seemingly without effort these avid readers have wide, rich vocabularies and a broad base of background knowledge. They know stuff. Harry Potter, Count of Monte Cristo, and Twilight readers also know that long doesn’t mean boring.
If online reading is “so short, simple, and solipsistic that it isn’t having the same effect,” then teachers will have to try harder to put challenging books in students’ hands.
“If you liked … , I really think you’ll love …” It’s harder to create this bridge from the online world to the print world. Tweet, tweet.
I was one of the relentless readers she describes. I learned from the books I read — especially biographies, histories and fiction set in different places and eras — which I used to understand more complex books.