"Many still read, and read well," NEA Chairman Dana Gioia said, "but we are at a delicate point, and the trends are toward the negative. Americans are reading less and, therefore, less well, and so they do less well in school, in the economy and in civic life."
Nearly half of those ages 18 to 24 who were surveyed read no books for pleasure at all. Those ages 15 to 24 who read voluntarily did so for only seven to 10 minutes a day.
So why are kids who can read choosing not to read?
In his book titled Reading the Naked Truth, Gerald Coles writes,
"Putting an excessive emphasis on word skills might result in beginning readers not achieving competence in a variety of additional strategies of reading, strategies especially necessary for high-level material in later grades. An excessive skills emphasis that encourages children to see reading as 'word work' rather than as an experience that informs and excites them and fires their imagination could discourage enthusiasm for reading and thereby encourage aliteracy, that is, students who know how to read but have no interest in reading."In low-income classrooms I've visited, I see this deadening effect at work. Low-income minority children are being given the lowest of the low when it comes to a rich curriculum. The reading program is designed for one thing: to help kids pass the state standardized test. The rationale is understandable: these kids need help in "the basics" because they don't get it at home. But this then leads to the creation of a curriculum that is nothing but the basics.
To see this phenomenon of "nothing but the basics" in sharp detail, read Linda Perlstein's extraordinary book, Tested. Perlstein painfully documents the dumbed-down, test-centric path that a Title 1 school in Maryland follows to make AYP. In reading this book, I was saddened, enraged, and disgusted. After being exposed to a constant regimen of "BCR's" (brief constructed responses), decoding drills, and endless test prep, it's little wonder why no one would ever want to read anything ever again.