Many literacy experts recommend that the first step in designing a reading program is seek information on the reading habits of students or to survey the students. So, on Day 2 of school, 76 freshmen at Wamogo High School in Connecticut took a survey, 16 questions (taken from Kelly Gallagher’s Readicide) prepared on Google Docs, titled, “How I Feel about Reading”. Their responses to the survey were candid and may, in fact, represent the reading habits of high school students in the class of 2016 in general.
The first question was encouraging. 2/3 of the students responded positively to the question “I think reading is fun” by checking off “usually” or “sometimes”. However, this statistic means that 33% said they “rarely” thought reading is fun. Hopefully, providing choice and support with Silent Sustained Reading (SSR) will improve attitudes towards reading.
64% do understand the importance of reading when asked if “being a good reader is important for success in school”; 34% indicated “sometimes” while only 2% were in the negative. In responding to this question, the students included the following interesting observations.
- “I think reading is worthwhile because there are so many types of books in the world. Whether they are feeding you information or keeping you entertained books are definitely worthwhile!”
- “It’s fun to read a good book. you totally get sucked into the book and you don’t even realize your reading. Reading is important because usually, jobs require you know how to read. and some jobs require that you read a lot. reading also strengthens grammar, spelling, writing, reading, and even the way you talk.”
The best response was to this question was, “It’s [reading] like a movie in your head, and I think that it is great to be able to imagine what the setting looks like, along with other things like the characters. It’s like the perfect world that you wish you where in. Sometimes I even think of myself as the main character, and it’s just amazing what you feel when you get into a book.” Such enthusiasm, however, was countered with the practical statement, “It [reading] makes you sleep.”
While 71% felt strongly that “being a good reader is important for success in life,” and 24% chose “sometimes”, the number of those in the negative unexpectedly rose to 5%.
Students were also asked in the survey as to how they choose a book. Their advice centered on the length of books, covers, and topics:
- “When I want to find a good book, I always check the back of the book where there is a short summary of it to see if it interests me. I also look to see who the author is and if I have read anything by them yet. Sometimes I ask my friends if they had read it and if they have a recommendation about it. And last but not least I check the pages on the middle and see if I am ok with the work type, and if I understand everything.”
- “I like books about people who have gone through tragedies and are just moving on from it. I also like the books that have a little romance in it, and if they take place during the summer.”
- “When is time for me to read a good book, I know that I don’t want to stop reading because it’s very good book.Sometimes when its not good book it takes me more time then anything. But I love books that are very interesting.”
- “When I want to find a good book, I look at the length or the cover… sometimes I will go to a page and turn to it and see if it makes sense… and if the cover looks good.”
- “Find a small book, (like 200 pages) and it has to be the right topic.”
- “Go to the library and look for what I like in a good book. I usually look at the cover, the title, and the paraphrase on the back.”
Students also recommended books. Titles that received multiple votes (4 or more recommendations) included:
The Hunger Games
S0 Be It
Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie
The Maze Runner
The Rangers Apprentice series
Percy Jackson and the Olympians series (any title)
Copies of all of the above titles have been added to the 9th grade classroom library through used book sales, especially copies of books in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. These books, and several hundred others, are on (2) portable carts in the classroom ready for SSR periods.
Sadly, the most depressing statistic came from the results of the question, “I read every day and look forward to my reading time”. Here, only 9% of 9th grade students replied “usually” in contrast to the 91% of student who responded “sometimes” or “rarely”.
The goal is to change that particular statistic this year!