New Research on Kids and Reading

Reading is the key to learning, as reading is a part of every subject. Here’s the latest research on kids and reading.

Children Read Paper Books More

In a study of Australian children in 4th and 6th grade looked at their reading habits and access to devices with reading capability (e.g., Kindles, iPads, and mobile phones). While many tend to think of younger people as being “digital natives” who prefer to read on screens, the study found that students tended not to use devices for recreational book reading even when they were daily book readers. In addition, the more access children were given to devices, the less they read. The reasons behind these effects are due in part to the greater opportunity to be distracted on a device, with the immediate rewards of playing a game easily outweighing the long-term benefits of reading even among regular readers.

Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report

Every two years, Scholastic releases the Kids & Family Reading Report, a survey of a nationally representative sample of parents of children ages 0 to 5, parents of children ages 6 to 17, and one child age 6 to 17 from the same household as a parent surveyed. The survey focuses on five areas:

  • What kids and parents want in children’s books
  • Reading books for fun
  • Reading aloud
  • Summer reading
  • Favorite children’s books

Among the key findings of the survey are that access to books in the home is strongly correlated both with reading frequency and with household income, with frequent readers (reading for fun 5 to 7 days per week) having more than twice as many books at home as infrequent readers (reading for fun less than 1 day per week). In addition, 65% of children agree with the statement, “I’ll always want to read books printed on paper even though there are eBooks available.”

Children’s favorite books tend to be those that they have picked out themselves, and those are also the books that they are most likely to finish. While 29% of parents say that their kids need help finding books to read for fun, children report struggling to find books they like at a much higher rate. 41% say they have trouble finding books, and that percentage is higher for infrequent readers (57%), boys (45%), and older children (44% for ages 12 to 14 and 45% for ages 15 to 17).

More parents report reading aloud to their child between the ages of 0 and 5 and doing so more frequently than in the 2014 report. Reading aloud together is enjoyed by both parents (82%) and kids (87%) ages 6 to 11. Yet the frequency of reading aloud drops dramatically from 59% of families with kids aged 0 to 5 to 38% of families with kids ages 6 to 8 to 17% of families with kids ages 9 to 11.

Both parents and kids agree that summer reading is important, with kids enjoying summer reading as a fun way to pass the time or just because they enjoy reading. Regarding the “summer slide” of children slipping back from what they learned in school over the summer months, only 48% of parents were aware of it. Low income families were less likely to be aware of the summer slide. Parents who were aware of the summer slide said that teachers and schools were their number one source of information on it.

Among the favorite books listed by kids and parents were classics like Dr. Seuss’s works and The Chronicles of Narnia. However, newer series were also quite popular, including the Magic Tree House series, the Harry Potter series, and the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.

What Kids Are Reading Report

Renaissance®, the maker of the Accelerated Reader 360® platform, uses information compiled from the data it collects to identify trends in student reading. Among the key findings of the 2017 report:

  • Girls continue to lead boys by 23% in total words read.
  • Increasing reading to 30 minutes per day from kindergarten through high school can mean exposure to 8 million more words compared to students who only read 15 minutes per day.
  • Struggling students who increase their daily reading practice with high comprehension and significant vocabulary exposure can surge ahead of their peers who don’t increase their reading.
  • While To Kill a Mockingbird and Dr. Seuss continue to be popular, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid has become popular with kids in grades 4 through 8, while The Hunger Games series continues to be popular among high school students.

Photo © 2010 courtesy of woodleywonderworks under Creative Commons license.

Humor Helps When Teaching Your Kid to Drive

It’s a challenge for any parent to help their child learn to drive. For the parent of a child with extra issues, whether it’s ADHD, anxiety, or autism, the challenge can be even greater. Gina Gallagher, co-author with her sister Patricia Konjoian of the book Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid, recently shared a post on their blog of the same name about helping her anxiety-ridden daughter learn to drive.

Ms. Gallagher approaches the challenges of raising an “imperfect kid” with both humor and love, and her post on teaching her daughter to drive is no exception. She wraps up her post with seven imperfect parent driving survival tips, all of which work well with any new driver. Among the tips are:

  • Start in the driveway. Parked. This excellent piece of advice came from education consultant, Cynthia DeAngelis, who instructed us to practice starting the car in the driveway. While in park, we also practiced switching from brake to gas pedal, increasing speed, and signaling. By the time we were actually ready to drive, my daughter had her footwork down and we had logged 40 hours of practice (just kidding).
  • Find an empty parking lot. On my daughter’s first real run, I took her to an empty industrial park. The company that once operated there made a wise decision to move as we surely would have killed all their employees.
  • Visit graveyards. They provide an excellent venue for your child to practice turning and driving on narrow roads. More importantly, it’s impossible for your child to kill people who have already died. #winning

Be sure to read the full article for a little help in how to teach your child to drive and a little smile about the challenges we all face as parents.

Photo © 2012 by Alex Proimos under Creative Commons license.

Helping Your Child Prepare for Assessments

Spring is here, and with it comes assessments. For third through eighth graders, that means the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). For high school juniors, that means the SAT.

Just like some schools may play up the assessments with pep rallies and such while others treat them as simply another test, some students may take assessments in stride while others stress out about them. Whichever reaction your child has, here are things you can do to help them prepare.

Understand the Role of Assessments

It is important for families to understand the role of assessments. The state of Illinois only requires one set of assessments—PARCC, the SAT, and the Illinois Science Assessment (ISA) in fifth and eighth grades and high school biology.

The additional assessments that your child takes are determined by your school district, and concerns you have with excessive assessments beyond the once-a-year state assessments should be directed towards your district. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has piloted the Illinois Student Assessment Inventory to help school districts reduce the number of assessments that they use by eliminating those that do not inform student instruction or overlap with other assessments.

The PARCC assessment tests students’ ability to apply what they’ve learned, not just report back facts they have learned. Likewise, the PARCC assessment report provides more information to both families and teachers on where students are struggling. A recent survey found that 90% of parents believe their child is performing at or above grade level in reading and 85% say their child is on track to meet learning goals and grade level expectations; however, in fact only 34% of eighth graders are reading at or above grade level according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The PARCC assessment provides you with the information you need to know if how you think your child is doing in school is actually true.

Finally, understand that how assessments are used to evaluate how your child’s school is performing has changed under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA has given the states the duty of determining how they measure school performance, and Illinois is using the Illinois Balanced Accountability Measure (IBAM). Under ESSA, schools that are identified as struggling are targeted for additional support, not the punitive measures that were enacted under No Child Left Behind for schools that didn’t make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

Helping Your Child with Test Anxiety

Illinois PTA has shared information on how to help your child deal with anxiety in a general sense, but even kids without anxiety issues can feel anxious about a test, whether it is the PARCC, SAT, or a regular math test. The suggestions for dealing with general anxiety still apply with test anxiety, but there are other things that can help as well.

Familiarity with what the test will be asking can help. PARCC has practice tests available, as does the SAT. Good study skills and a plan to prepare help as well. Great Schools also has a short two-minute video on things you can do to help your child with text anxiety.

Resources are Available to Help You

There are many additional resources out there to help you help understand what your child needs to know to meet their grade-level expectations.

7 Keys to Creativity

When we think about creative people, we tend to think of artists, writers, painters, and the like, but creativity is an essential part of almost everything we do. Whether it is figuring out the best bridge design to span a river or cooking dinner for our family, the opportunity to be creative is always there. So how do you help your child foster their creativity?

Creative thinking expert Michael Michalko spells out his seven tenets of creative thinking, the seven things he wishes he were taught as a student. Helping your child learn these lessons can help them (and you) be a more creative person.

  1. You are creative. Everyone creates, especially as a child. It is only as we get older that we begin to think of ourselves as creative or not. The main thing that identifies creative people is that they believe they are creative, and so they develop their abilities to express themselves.
  2. Creative thinking is work. Thomas Edison once said that genius is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration. Being creative requires dedication to developing new ideas, most of which will be bad. What separates great photographers from the amateurs is that the great ones take many, many more pictures. Every great movie leaves piles of footage on the cutting room floor.
  3. You must go through the motions. Our brains build connections as we do and learn things, and the more that we do those things, the stronger the connections become. Working to come up with creative ideas increases your ability to be creative. Creative ideas don’t come to you. You have to go chase after them, and the more you chase, the better you’ll be at catching them.
  4. Your brain is not a computer. Our brains don’t really separate fact from fiction. It is why a good book can transport us to another place. It is why we feel the same exhilaration as Luke Skywalker when the Death Star blows up and cower in our seats during a scary movie. Imagining is an essential part of creativity. Walt Disney called the creative people working on his movies and parks imagineers, a portmanteau of imagination engineers.
  5. There is no right answer. Little kids tend to think of things as black or white, but as adults we know there are many shades of gray in between. When trying to create new ideas, it is essential to not evaluate them as they come to us. Every idea is a possibility, so you should generate as many as possible before figuring out if they are any good or not. Edison himself thought of 3,000 different lighting system ideas before he even began to evaluate whether they would work or not.
  6. There is no such thing as failure. If you don’t succeed, you still have produced something. What’s important is what you learn from what you produced, even if it didn’t work. As author Neil Gaiman said in his commencement address at the University of the Arts in 2012, “I hope you’ll make mistakes. If you’re making mistakes, it means you’re out there doing something. And the mistakes in themselves can be useful. I once misspelled Caroline, in a letter, transposing the A and the O, and I thought, ‘Coraline looks like a real name…’” Coraline is, of course, one of his most famous children’s books as well as a successful movie.
  7. You don’t see things as they are—you see them as you Experiences don’t have meaning until we give them meaning, and the meaning we give them depends on where we are in life and what we believe to be true. Ken Olsen, the founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, which made mainframe computers, famously said that there was no reason anyone would want a computer in their home. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Steve Wozniak saw the same industry through a different lens, and now most of us not only have computers in our homes but also in our pockets and purses. Creative people realize that we construct our reality by how we interpret our experiences.

By keeping these seven keys in mind, we can help our children become more creative, supporting them when they get discouraged and encouraging a growth mindset.

Photo courtesy Max Pixel.