“What’s measured gets taught. What gets taught gets better!,” say educators who then sag each year when reviewing their students’ disappointing reading test scores.
For decades, instruction changes have been cued by test results, however, none of them seem to improve the test scores of most students.
Currently, kids’ reading skills are assessed largely by having them read passages in which they likely have no interest, and then answer multiple-choice questions they likely would never ask in a set amount of time while sitting in uncomfortable chairs. That’s NOT a natural reading scenario! Yet 35 percent of young readers are still identified as proficient by this assessment method, which begs the questions: “How does that 35 percent score as ‘proficient’ on annual tests while the majority don’t? How do they learn to read?”
Well, it seems that this 35 percent:
- Frequently select their own books, based upon what delights them.
- Eagerly get lost in the joy of their solo reading just about every day.
- Read for as long as they want to or have time to read, returning gleefully to their books ASAP.
- Abandon any book that has faded in its appeal and select more promising books.
- Slowly enjoy their books, never hurrying unless they anticipate an interruption…like “Dinner!”
- Spontaneously share their insights, interests and confusions about what they’re reading to the delight of their parents, teachers and friends.
- Re-read interesting parts, sometimes excitedly stopping to access other resources about the interesting bit or asking a trusted someone for needed information. Buoyed with extra understanding, they then return to their beloved book.
- Continually seek out new books and reading material.
Proficient readers seem to become that way by reading personally delightful books and discussing them with trusted others. Children who read well read for the same kind of emotional state associated with hobbies and other self-selected pastimes. They don’t intentionally bother with improving the mechanics of reading or with perfecting specific reading skills. Primarily they embrace habits of lifelong daily reading for personal enjoyment and edification. Reading is its own reward.
Doing something delightful just about always leads to doing it better, so it follows that foregrounding delight in reading instruction could predictably enhance literacy and lead to improving reading proficiency scores.
If delight were built into reading instruction, how might educators and parents measure children’s reading delight? Simple.
Watch each child over time. Observe whether they are delighted with their books and in reading them for the sheer fun of it. If we tried that, maybe we’d discover what we should have been measuring all along. If we teach the delights of reading, maybe we’d see every kid moving closer to “proficient” on those undelightful tests.