This post is actually a comment I left on Annie Murphy Paul’s blog, on her post titled “Teens Are Choosing Books That Are Too Easy For Them”.
Where I agree with the concerns of this report is that secondary students do need more guided instruction. By guided, I mean the teacher conferring with readers on a regular basis, asking them questions about the text and giving support in the form of strategy instruction. And I am not against reading the classics and being challenged as a reader from time to time. But the job of the teacher is to scaffold the students’ experiences with the text so they are successful, with strategies such as questioning and graphic organizers. It shouldn’t be left to the parents.
That said, this report fails to cite any research that would give any validity to these concerns. What research says about reading text that is “easy” for students is very clear:
- The most effective teachers provide text for students they could easily read (Allington and Johnston, 2002; Keene, 2002; Langer, 2001)
- High levels of reading accuracy produce the best reading growth (Ehri et al, 2007)
- Reading comprehension predicts reading volume and reading comprehension performance (Guthrie et al, 1999)
You can read more about this research in the excellent resource What Really Matters in Response to Intervention by Richard Allington. I also recommend his article Intervention All Day Long, found at http://goo.gl/lTWuH. In the article, Dr. Allington actually goes into a secondary school and concretely shows the fallacy of matching readers with text that is too difficult.
Where some seem to see a problem in students not selecting challenging texts, I see this issue as a success story. Students are reading! Who here reads books because they are challenging? I don’t. I choose to read text that is interesting, engaging, and meaningful to me as a reader and a person. Sounds like this is what these students are doing. For the most part, I say leave them alone and let them read.