3 Important Ways to Brighten the Future of Reading in the U.S.

Reading a great book for pleasure can be a magical experience for kids. It takes them to new places, lets them relive history, and teaches them about worlds they would never encounter in real life.

Unfortunately, a study on the state of reading in the United States has recently revealed some disheartening statistics: did you know 66 percent of 8th graders tested below proficient in reading, according to The Nation’s Report Card? The problem: reading is one of the most important skills for a child to have—it will follow them through the rest of their schooling and career, in every way.

Luckily, as an educator, you have the power to change these statistics, teaching your students a love of reading that will carry through their entire lives.

83% of kids say they love when parents read a loud to them.

In our online world, books are collecting a thick layer of dust, including those in your students’ houses. Start a reading incentive program for students and their parents—the student that reads the most at home each month gets to choose a free book of their choice.

Reading together as a family not only helps students build their own love of reading while developing important reading skills, but it also helps to establish a bond between parent and child.

The average child spends 7 hours a day in front of a screen.

EdTech is the new normal for teachers—and for a good reason. Technology helps you engage students and reach those who are struggling. However, reducing the amount of screen time in the classroom, even once a week, will motivate students to sit down with a book.

Not to mention, limiting screen time can have a variety of other non-reading benefits—children who spend more time in front of a screen have more behavioral problems, sleep disorders, and higher rates of obesity. Encourage students to use technology to find the books they want to read—looking up titles on the library’s website—and then sit down in the classroom library to read it.

Encourage parents to limit screen time by swapping a TV night for a family book night, where the TV stays off and everyone grabs their favorite book to settle in for a night of reading great stories. You could do this independently or read aloud together as a family.

52% of students love class reading time; only 17% of teachers do this.

The best part about this statistic is that kids want to read more in the classroom, independently and as a group. Despite the focus on testing and teaching to the test, there are many ways to build more reading time into the school day. For example:

  • Encourage more students to read aloud during lessons.
  • Give students 30-minutes of silent reading time once a week.
  • Build reading into other lessons—reading non-fiction books is a great way to explore history, science and geography topics.
  • Assign a weekly current event, requiring each student to read one non-fiction article at least once a week.
  • If you or your school can’t afford more reading materials for the classroom, buy discounted books and magazines when there are small budget openings—the more there is to read, the more likely students are to do it.

Reading is one of the most important skills a student can have, and you are in a powerful position to make a change for the better. Consider how you can make a difference in your classroom and motivate parents to do the same at home.

This is a guest post from contributing writer, Jessica Thiefels. Jessica Thiefels is the editor of Whooo’s Reading and an education blogger, who’s been featured in publications such as EdTech Digest and Daily Genius. Her favorite books growing up were My Side of the Mountain and The Giver, and she hopes to inspire a similar love of reading in students and educators.