The 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress Shows the Way
Lately I’ve been blogging about changing the conversation we have in the US around literacy and reading. Much of what I’ve shared has come from over forty years of observations of children and teachers, along with my more recent work at Unite for Literacy. Some of these observations include:
- Worldwide “book abundance” will be a real possibility in the next few years as we unite the availability of printed books with free, online libraries of digital books.
- Books are useless on the shelf. Voluminous libraries are only as valuable as the proportion of books they have flying off the shelves and into the hands of children and adults.
- The clearest indicator of a well-educated population is that its members continue to read and learn long after formal schooling is over. In this, we in the US are seriously lacking.
- Waiting until a child is entering Kindergarten to begin to nurture a love of reading and books is WAY too late. Parents, neighbors, and members of the community where children grow up are in the best position to be able to send children to their first day of school “hungry” to learn to read.
- The only individuals whom we really MUST get to care about reading are the kids themselves. Teaching for fluent reading is not enough. If young children don’t fully understand the power that comes from reading, all the excellent teaching in the world is doomed to fail. All children will learn to read proficiently only after they have developed a love of books and want to learn to read them well. Parents, neighbors, caregivers and educators can ensure that young children make this critical emotional connection.
- What gets measured gets done. In the US, we don’t assess the personal, emotional response that leads to choosing to leisure reading for personal enjoyment and so we don’t include that in our educational policies and mandates. (IRA 2014*)
Having shared these observations, here’s a more scientific look at the current state of affairs where, in America, we seek to measure reading success solely by assessing proficiency, omitting that key emotional element that contributes to children growing into avid readers.
This graphic doesn’t take much explanation. You will see its significance immediately. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) measures reading achievement across our entire country by generating data from a sampling of schools. NAEP also assesses very important background variables for each child.
This chart includes just three of those variables from the 2013 NAEP data for fourth graders:
- Four categories for describing the number of books in the child’s home
- Four categories for indicating the frequency with which the child reads for fun
- Average reading “achievement levels” (derived from NAEP score averages)
Now, here is the conversation starter:
Given these data, what kind of policy and instructional changes might ensure that every child will end up in that dark blue cell where reading proficiency is the norm, and not the exception?