By now, it’s a well-worn cliche that young people are too busy playing Minecraft and using Snapchat to read books anymore. At the same time, reports that young students’ math and reading test scores have dropped recently are filling many parents with anxiety.
According to the Nation’s Report Card (officially known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress), average math scores for students in fourth and eight grade declined from 2013 to 2015. While average reading scores for the nation’s fourth graders remained unchanged, eighth graders’ reading scores also dropped. Not only that, but the achievement gap between poor and wealthy students stayed the same.
The results are all the more disappointing because they follow years of rising test scores. Still, Peggy Carr, the head of the research arm of the NAEP, said there’s no reason to be pessimistic about falling test scores — at least not yet.
“We don’t know whether the changes are long term,” Carr said. “I think we need to be cautious and exercise a little bit of judgement and wait to see what will happen in 2017.”
The falling reading scores track well with data about young students’ reading habits. Young people read more during elementary school, but those numbers tend to drop as they age. Overall, the time kids spend reading is dropping, too.
In 1999, young readers ages two to seven read for 45 minutes a day on average. As of 2013, that number had dropped to just 30 minutes. And the older children get, the more those numbers drop. Regular reading, either for school or for pleasure, leads to self-improvement and better educational outcomes in children and teens, a fact that is virtually undisputed.
“I have found that reading habits for children vary greatly,” says Scotty Sanders, Author, “Quest of the Keys.” “As a parent, know that your values will be picked up by your children. So if you’re concerned about your kid’s reading habits, spend your energy creating a culture where reading is the norm. You live it and model it!”
If kids are reading less, parents might be to blame. Numerous studies have shown that children of active readers are more likely to become active readers themselves. A recent study from the Pew Research Center looked at four years’ worth of Americans’ reading habits, and the results suggest adults are reading fewer books, too.
U.S. adults are reading less than they did in 2011, and e-book sales suggest they aren’t just reading digital titles. Whether it’s on a tablet, e-reader, or a physical book, adults are reading fewer books this year.
To get their kids to read more, parents need to start picking up books again first.