New Jersey goes to the head of the class in reading, according to the report out last week from The Nation’s Report Card, a communication of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) that measures student achievement in elementary and secondary education in the United States.
In an article by Jeanette Rundquist, the state is encouraged by its fourth and eighth graders posting the second highest reading scores in the country. New Jersey also ranked an impressive number three and four ranking nationally in mathematics for fourth and eighth graders, respectively. But Rundquist is quick to point out that there is a lot of work to be done, since just less than 40 percent of students nationwide were considered “proficient” in writing and math.
The NAEP results reveal an interesting insight into student habits—on the national level, fourth graders who say they “read for fun almost every day” had higher reading scores. What’s more, this year’s survey found a higher percentage of fun-reading fourth graders than in previous years.
Reading for fun? It’s heartening to know that children are still doing that. We can thank dedicated parents and teachers—and especially the authors of the “Harry Potter” series and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” for keeping fourth graders interested in books. But the national average for fourth grade reading comprehension has not changed since 2009; even despite the NAEP data that shows approximately 47 percent of fourth-graders in the nation received 10 or more hours of language arts instruction per week in 2011, which is higher than in 2005.
While we are gratified that language arts instruction hours have increased in the school day, we still need to ask ourselves if we could be doing more to improve the flat-lined progress in reading comprehension across the nation.
Here’s what helps encourage a love for reading:
•Work together with parents to ensure there is a literacy-rich environment both in class and at home. Ask parents to have their children read out loud to them every week, if not every day. Also remind parents to keep reading to their children, too—no matter how old they are.
•Include a variety of Book Talks in your classroom, using the strategy of Think Alouds for students. (Davey, B. (1983). Think-aloud: Modeling the cognitive processes of reading comprehension. Journal of Reading, 27(1), 44-47.) Two important things teachers need to do during a Think Aloud are share their personal reading selections with the class, and model behavior during Read Alouds for interpreting text. It really works.
•For older children, start a student-driven book club. Ask students to form groups outside of school and report back to the class on their experiences.
•Make sure you are choosing age-appropriate books for your students, and send home book lists to parents and guardians, to make choosing books at the library or book store much easier. One useful site to explore is the PBS Bookfinder page, where you can find age-appropriate books through third grade for Read Alouds or independent reading, organized by subject.