Are students losing the love of reading? 0
Eric Kilbreath Executive director Organization for Literacy in Lambton
The Petrolia Topic
Fewer kids say they like to read. A new report from People for Education - using data from the provincial Education Quality and Accountability Office - says the percentage of Grade 3 students who report they "like to read" has declined from 76% in 1998/99, to 50% in 2010/11.
In Grade 6, the percentage of students who say they "like to read" has declined from 65% in 1998/99 to 50% in 2010/11.
Literacy - alongside writing and math - has been at the centre of Ontario's educational agenda for more than a decade. And while Ontario students' literacy scores have improved during that time, the People for Education (PFE) report says something unexpected has also happened: There has been a dramatic decline in the percentage of Ontario students who report they "like to read."
International studies show students with a more positive attitude toward reading tend to be more successful in all subjects, the PFE report says. They are more likely to read more and seek deeper knowledge and consequently develop deeper conceptual understandings of the subject matter.
Reading enjoyment is not only associated with high student achievement. Research shows "engaged" readers are also more likely to be socially and civically engaged as well.
If, as the EQAO data shows, half of Ontario's Grades 3 and 6 students don't enjoy reading, this may have an impact on their overall attitude toward learning which can last a lifetime, says the PFE report.
The report says "While the increase in Ontario's students' reading scores is to be applauded, the decrease in their love of reading is worrying. It is possible our focus on targets for test scores and on the 'mechanics' of literacy have had an impact on students' attitudes.
"Regardless of form, reading for the joy of it, for its capacity to broaden our horizons, use our imaginations, think creatively, understand ourselves and others better, and feel engaged as citizens in the world - reading for all those reasons must be a vital component of what we encourage in our schools."
Perhaps the most important thing schools could be doing is to get the message out more clearly to parents that reading at home for pleasure is vital to children's long-term success, says the PFE report.
Eric Kilbreath, executive director of the Organization for Literacy in Lambton (OLL), agrees that while the good news in the report is that literacy scores for Ontario students have improved during the past decade, there is a "...real concern in the continued decline" in the percentage of students who report they like to read.
"Literacy skills are similar to muscles in the sense that if you do not use them, you lose them," said Kilbreath. "If, after graduating from high school, people seldom engage in reading, the literacy skills they had developed at school will be lost."
PFE says only 21% of Ontario children in Grade 3 report they read together with a parent or guardian "every day or almost every day".
Only 56% of elementary schools had a teacher-librarian in In 2010/11 - 80 per cent of them part-time - compared to 76% in 1998/99.
And 66% of secondary schools had a teacher-librarian in 2010/11, just over half full-time, down from 78% in 2000/01.
OLL doesn't do its own Lambton County survey to gauge the percentage of students who like or don't like to read.
But Kilbreath said one of the best predictors of a child's literacy skills is looking at the parents.
"Literacy is a family affair, and children tend to end up reading at the same level as their parents," he said. "If the parents have low literacy skills, their children will likely have low literacy skills. If parents have high literacy skills, most likely their children will develop high literacy skills."
Adult literacy skills in Sarnia-Lambton are in line with national statistics, meaning about 45% of adults don't read at the level of a high school graduate.
Kilbreath said children are products of their environment.
"If they are in homes where reading material is readily available and where importance is placed on reading; chances are, they will become more avid readers," he said. "It is important parents continue to read to their children even after their children have learned to read. This creates an opportunity to spend quality time together, without concerns about correcting your child's reading."
Kilbreath said reading occurs not just through books but also while buying groceries, looking at street signs, understanding instructions for taking medication, etc.