What Kids Are Reading And Why It Matters

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1 2015 Edition What Kids Are Reading And Why It Matters See inside for author commentary by Andrew Clements, Dr. Christine King Farris, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, and Rodman Philbrick as well as lists of the books kids in grades 1 12 are reading most. New: Data-driven insights into reading practice, achievement, nonfiction, and text complexity.

2 2014 by Renaissance Learning, Inc. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. All logos, designs, and brand names for Renaissance Learning s products and services, including but not limited Accelerated Reader, Accelerated Reader 360, AR, ATOS, Renaissance, Renaissance Learning, the Renaissance Learning logo, and STAR Reading, are trademarks of Renaissance Learning, Inc., and its subsidiaries, registered, common law, or pending registration in the United States and other countries. All other product and company names should be considered the property of their respective companies and organizations. Introduction 2014 by Bridgette Fortenberry. Your brain on books, a foreword 2014 by Rodman Philbrick. Why reading matters 2014 by Andrew Clements. Why reading matters 2014 by Christine King Farris. Why reading matters 2014 by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. This publication is protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. It is unlawful to duplicate or reproduce any copyrighted material without authorization from the copyright holder. For more information, contact: RENAISSANCE LEARNING P.O. Box 8036 Wisconsin Rapids, WI (800) /14 Visit for additional insights on what kids are reading

3 Preface Welcome to What Kids Are Reading: And Why It Matters, 2015 Edition. This year s report is based on data for more than 9.8 million students in grades 1 12 from 31,633 schools nationwide who read more than 330 million books during the school year. Prior editions of the report have focused almost exclusively on popular book lists. While knowing the top books students are reading by grade, gender, and so forth, is interesting and informative, this year, we are taking our exploration into what kids are reading a step further by asking the question, Why does reading matter? Simply put, the characteristics of student reading practice matter a lot for improving reading-achievement performance, for meeting the goals of new college- and career-readiness standards, and ultimately for helping students become well-rounded and successful adults. Renaissance Learning maintains arguably the largest database of readingpractice and achievement data in the world, thanks to widespread use of the Accelerated Reader (AR) program and the STAR Reading assessment. In addition to lists of popular books and author commentary on the importance of reading, each section of this year s report also uses the AR database to answer fundamental questions about student book-reading behavior in the U.S. and how it influences achievement and growth. 1 It is time to explore. 1 Unless otherwise noted, the source of the data for these analyses is the Accelerated Reader hosted database, which includes book-reading records for more than 9.8 million students in grades 1 12 from 31,633 schools nationwide who read more than 330 million books during the school year. i

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5 Contents i v Preface Your brain on books, a foreword by Rodman Philbrick, author of Freak the Mighty 1 Introduction by Bridgette Fortenberry, English Teacher, Baton Rouge Magnet High School 3 Section I: Overall reading 4 An analysis of reading practice 11 Why reading matters, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, author of Shiloh 12 Top 25 books read overall, grades Section II: Nonfiction reading 26 An analysis of nonfiction reading 27 Why reading matters, by Dr. Christine King Farris, author of My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 28 Top 25 nonfiction books read by boys and girls, grades Section III: Exposure to complex texts 42 An analysis of reading challenge 45 Why reading matters, by Andrew Clements, author of Frindle 46 Top 25 fiction and nonfiction books read overall by text complexity grade bands 51 Appendix: About the report Tables 41 Table 1. Students need exposure to text complexity throughout schooling to be college and career ready 51 Table A1. Students, books, words, and ATOS levels by grade Figures 4 Figure 1. Girls outpace boys in words read after grade 4 6 Figure 2. Characteristics of daily independent reading practice relate to growth and achievement outcomes 8 Figure 3. Students with goals set for independent reading practice read more and achieve better outcomes 26 Figure 4. Boys read more nonficton than girls, yet fall short of targets 42 Figure 5. Complexity for older students mirrors some adult reading but misses rigor of college and career texts 43 Figure 6. Beyond grade 5, few students read books within their text complexity grade bands 53 Figure A1. AR Quiz screen iii

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7 Your brain on books A foreword by Rodman Philbrick, author of Freak the Mighty Back in the 1980s there was a famous ad campaign designed to dissuade young people from abusing drugs. You may have seen it on You Tube. The image of an egg sizzling on a griddle, accompanied by the message: This is your brain on drugs. Any questions? I certainly agreed with the premise drugs are bad for the brain. But my reaction wasn t the one intended, because the ad made me hungry. What about bacon?, I wanted to know. How about home fries and toast? And in my author-warped mind the image morphed into that of a brain sizzling with ideas and creative energy: This is your brain on books. Any questions? Yes, as a matter of fact. Many questions. What exactly is it that happens when words enter the brain? How does a string of symbols somehow produce a highly personalized experience that takes place entirely inside your head? What is it about the act of reading just you, alone with a book that releases an expanding universe of ideas, opinions, and characters who come to life in your mind? How is it possible that by opening a book a reader is able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, travel to distant galaxies in the company of Stephen Hawking, and visit a courtroom to hear Atticus Finch argue for an innocent man s life? Want to attend the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry? Struggle to survive in a distopian world? No problem just turn the page. Here s my own personal theory. Researchers at University College of London have already shown that by memorizing the streets of London, cab drivers increase the size and complexity of their own brains. Their brains get bigger. If that is true, then surely it follows that reading must increase the size of the human imagination, and possibly the brain itself. Inescapable conclusion: reading makes us smarter. And I don t mean it crams our heads with facts although it can do that, if you want to win on Jeopardy. I mean that by collaborating with an author, by bringing a particular story or text to life in our own minds, we are flexing our brains and making them stronger, sharper, better. But there s something else going on with a brain on books, something even better than making ourselves smarter and stronger. Reading is fun. There is no drug experience that compares to reading The Hobbit for the first time, at the age of twelve. Or The Wind in The Willows at any age. Or Anne of Green Gables or Maniac McGee, or a million other books just waiting for you to find them, and millions yet to be written. Virginia Woolf famously wrote on the importance of A Room of One s Own, and that s what reading provides: a place to go that is yours alone, available at no cost from your local library, and carried with you wherever you may go, to be entered at your convenience. Better than bacon. Better than eggs. Better, even, than candy. This is your brain on books. Any questions? Of course there are. Keep reading. Rodman Philbrick grew up on the coast of New Hampshire and has been writing novels since the age of sixteen. His young adult novel Freak The Mighty has become a standard reading selection in thousands of classrooms worldwide, and now has more than three million copies in print. In 2010, Philbrick won a Newbery Honor for The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg, a stage version of which was presented at the Kennedy Center in His latest novel for young readers, Zane and The Hurricane, was published in v

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9 Introduction by Bridgette Fortenberry, English Teacher, Baton Rouge Magnet High School Growing up in inner city New Orleans during the late 1980s was much like growing up in Harper Lee s Maycomb, Alabama, of To Kill a Mockingbird. Similarly to Scout, Jem, and Dill, my siblings and I spent our summer days playing outside and making mischief. We constantly convinced each other to be creative and cunning in our daily antics. Also like Scout and Jem, my home did not always possess a television. This left much of my youth spent with my face buried in a book. With the aid of books from my elementary school and local library, I was transported through time and space to places long gone and yet to be discovered. I was no longer the quiet, timid one sitting alone in the living room; I was the brave adventurer traveling the world getting my passport stamped and my mind exposed to cultures and experiences far beyond my neighborhood. I grew up seeing books as the mainstay of entertainment and enjoyment. Work and research as a classroom educator has led me to the disturbing realization that this generation of students does not see books through the same lens that I saw these literary masterpieces. I implore educators to encourage students to delve into nonfiction texts. Although some of them enjoy reading, many of them find it hard to reconcile the time devoted to reading a book. In their opinion, that time could be spent watching a television show or updating their social media page. As educators, we must strive to be not discouraged by the possibility that this generation of children may not see the world the way that we and our parents saw it. Instead, we must adjust our lenses to see their reality of digital dependence and connect it to the present literary landscape that features the very themes and concepts that continue to challenge us all as human beings. A great way to create this connection lies in teachers having conversations with students about what intrigues them in life and then making the connection to recommended literature. My results from beginning of the year discussions and Accelerated Reader Status of the Class observations have demonstrated that students still enjoy fiction texts that feature flawed characters and tragic heroes. Students are drawn to the stories of those young men and women who do not always get it right but continue to fight for the possibility of goodness. For example, If I Stay by Gayle Forman captures the hearts of many young readers because it shows the struggle of holding on when it would be much easier to let go. Students who both read the text and watched the movie all responded that the book engaged their hearts on a level that the film did not because the book Bridgette Fortenberry, who has served as an English educator for the past decade, knows that teaching is her true calling. Throughout her classroom tenure, she has received two Baton Rouge High School Teacher of the Year Awards and has been named District Finalist once. She attributes this recognition to her service as the BRMHS AR Lead teacher for the English department and above all to her commitment to the education of children. Additionally, she serves as ACT Prep interventionist and sponsor of several service-oriented student organizations. She has also been called on several occasions to share her methodologies with teachers both regionally and in private practice. Her educational philosophy states that the key to education is firmness tempered with caring. exposed the dark corners of the mind where the right answer is not always black and white. Another new classic, The Hate List by Jennifer Brown, is riveting to both males and females who struggle with being an outsider. Students reach the epiphany that high school is horrible for many people, but harming others has perpetual consequences. This novel offers readers an opportunity to see what happens when daydreams come true and ultimately lead to nightmares. Both of these selections showcase the turbulent nature of this generation s struggle to find answers in a world inhabited with a plethora of psychological pressures pushing them to polarizing positions. These books also offer a way for students to process problems without suffering the devastating consequences that accompany passionate youthful choices. 1

10 Conversely, in addition to fiction, I have come to realize the significance and importance of nonfiction to a generation enthralled by reality television and blockbuster movies. Many times students accept and emulate the behaviors and values of these celebrities despite the obvious flaws shown on screen. Therefore, I implore educators to encourage students to delve into nonfiction texts it is remarkable to see the conversations of contrast that develop from this additional valid information. As educators, we must commit to connecting ourselves to this generation of students through literature. A noteworthy example with my students happened in connection to the hit films Freedom Writers and The Blind Side. When I have recommended that students investigate Michael Oher s I Beat the Odds and The Freedom Writers The Freedom Writers Diary, they have returned with revelations about the true people featured in film beyond the Hollywood treatment. Afterwards, students identified more closely with these works because there was so much more to the story on the written page than in the movies. These revelations do not have to stop at the movies; nonfiction texts can also combat misconceptions seen on television. Having students look at Willie Robertson s The Duck Commander Family: How Faith, Family, and Ducks Created a Dynasty or Beatrice Sparks s Annie s Baby forces them to reconsider the validity of all things reality. If students can reconsider the validity of what they perceive as truth, then they have to consider the manner in which they are thinking, which ultimately is the goal of the consummate educator. Hopefully, this introduction has made you reconsider the fact that we educators still possess a booming voice above the din of digital distractions. If it has, use your voice and reconnect your students to the written word. What Kids Are Reading serves as a fantastic resource for educators to foster that connection because it features selections by grade, gender, genre, and book level and provides in-depth analyses on important components of student reading practice. The lists, which feature the most popular selections, provide thought-provoking options for teachers to share with students. It allows educators to have a link to what students might enjoy without teachers attempting to read all of the young adult literature in the local library. The texts separated by gender and grade level are especially useful. For example, an appropriate choice can be found for an eleven-year-old male sixth grader by a high school female English teacher without either of them feeling lost. As educators, we must commit to connecting ourselves to this generation of students through literature and deliberate action. If students and teachers are bonded by the written word, the world will continue to create new possibilities and revitalize the love of reading. 2

11 Section I: Overall reading What are kids reading? With more than 167,000 Accelerated Reader Quizzes available, AR makes the essential student practice component of any reading curriculum more effective by helping teachers monitor and guide students independent reading. Currently, the Accelerated Reader hosted database upon which this report is based includes book-reading records for more than 9.8 million students from 31,633 schools nationwide who read more than 330 million books during the school year. The lists that begin on p. 12 rank the top 25 books read overall in grades To compare readership to the past two school years, view each book s prior-year rankings. Why it matters... The importance of student practice in reading cannot be overstated. In order to read well and become well read as is emphasized in college- and career-readiness standards students must dedicate time and effort to practicing this critical skill. Explore an in-depth look at what AR data tells us about reading practice on p. 4. Then learn why reading matters to guest essayist Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (author of Shiloh) on p. 11. For additional insights on what kids are reading, visit 2 Note: Because schools may optionally record demographic information about students in AR, gender data is available for approximately 68% of students. Thus, book lists in this section compile records for boys, girls, and students for which gender was not recorded. 3

12 An analysis of reading practice Think of any skill piano, carpentry, cooking, algebra, basketball, and so forth. What do they all have in common? It is impossible to do well at any of these activities without practicing extensively. Experts who study skill acquisition have found that we have to dedicate a sufficient amount of time to practice, and that this time is best spent if we set goals, work at the optimal level of challenge, receive immediate relevant feedback, and have opportunities to elaborate on what we are learning (Ericsson, Prietula, & Cokely, 2007). Reading is no exception. In order to become successful readers, students need high-quality instruction and other supports, but reading volume is also a non-negotiable part of the equation for developing vocabulary, fluency, comprehension, writing, and higher-order thinking skills (e.g., Anderson, Wilson, & Fielding, 1988; Baker, Simmons, & Kameenui, 1995; Cunningham & Stanovich, 1998b). Regardless of whether books are assigned or self-selected, the independent reading students do on a (hopefully) daily basis represents a form of self-guided practice. Mining data on daily independent reading practice and achievement from millions of students who use Accelerated Reader allows us to address important questions about independent reading practice, including what makes it so vital for helping children become successful readers. 1. By grade and gender, how much independent book reading practice do American students do? On average, students read the most books in grades 2 and 3 (about 57 and 51 per year, respectively), and the fewest in grades 11 and 12 (about 5 per year). See the Appendix to this report for the average number of books read by grade (table A1, p. 51). The average number of words students read in books per year begins at about 25,000 in grade 1, rises each year until its peak at about 436,000 in grade 6, and then decreases to the low 300,000s by the end of high school (table A1, p. 51). As seen below in figure 1, on average, girls read 761,000 more words than boys by the time they finish high school. Girls encounter nearly 3.8 million words between grades 1 12 about 25% more than boys, who encounter just over 3 million. Figure 1. Girls outpace boys in words read after grade 4 Girls encounter nearly 3.8 million words between grades 1 12 about 25% more than boys, who encounter just over 3 million. 4

13 Examining reading volume is important for many reasons, one being vocabulary (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1998a). Vocabulary can be thought of as knowledge of words and word meanings (National Reading Technical Assistance Center [NRTAC], 2010, p. 1). Needless to say, students cannot understand a text unless they are familiar with words and their meanings, or they have developed strategies to learn unfamiliar words. Students vocabularies need to expand over time if they are to understand increasingly complex text as they progress toward college and careers. It is no surprise then that reading experts and standards authors have repeatedly called attention to the critical role vocabulary plays in the development of reading skills and learning in general (Anderson & Nagy, 1991; National Governors Association Center for Best Practices/Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010). Every student should be afforded opportunities to develop vocabulary through a variety of means, including direct instruction, structured tasks, and independent reading practice, among others (NRTAC, 2010). Independent reading practice is important because we know that in order for students to build and strengthen their vocabularies, they need repeated exposure to words in a variety of contexts (Stahl, 2005). Independent book reading is not the only way students get multiple word exposures, but it is an important one (Nagy, Anderson, & Herman, 1987). In figure 1, the data indicate that girls typically encounter about 761,000 more words in books than boys by the time they finish the 12th grade a 25% difference. The advantages in vocabulary exposure and practice enjoyed by girls may help explain their superior performance on a number of reading-achievement tests such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (National Center for Education Statistics, 2013). Gender aside, we should be asking whether every student is doing enough independent reading practice to build vocabulary and hone comprehension skills. Academic standards are mostly silent on how long students should read each day, but it is worth noting that in recent years some states and districts have launched awareness campaigns suggesting students should work up to reading as many as a million words per year (Denver Public Schools, 2007; Families in Schools, 2014). Looking again at the averages in table A1 (Appendix, p. 51), clearly, most students are falling well short of those goals. In the next discussion, we examine the relationship between volume and achievement in more detail. Three characteristics of reading practice explain variance in achievement outcomes: comprehension, volume, and challenge. (Renaissance Learning, 2012) 2. What characteristics of independent reading practice are associated with reading-achievement growth? Prior research (Renaissance Learning, 2012) has demonstrated that three characteristics of reading practice explain variance in achievement outcomes: comprehension, volume, and challenge. Students who are able to find books at the right challenge level, read them at a high comprehension rate (85% or higher), and spend 30+ minutes per day reading experience the strongest gains in achievement. Of the three variables of independent reading practice comprehension, volume, and challenge the most powerful predictor of growth is comprehension. That is, the extent to which students understand the main points of the books they read. Findings from prior research, reflected in figure 2 (next page), have detected a tipping point around a comprehension level of about 85% (i.e., students averaging 85% or higher on Accelerated Reader comprehension quizzes taken after reading a book). Students who maintain this level of success over a quarter, semester, or school year are likely to experience above-average achievement growth. In summarizing research studies over the past several years, Allington (2009) stated that the answer to the question of whether reading volume affects reading proficiency is a pretty straightforward yes (p. 34). We have similarly confirmed the role that volume, or the time students spend reading books, is critical. Using AR metrics such as the number of words read and the challenge level of the books read, we are able to estimate the amount of time students spend engaged with books each day. This reading time can occur either within and outside of class, or both. We call it estimated engaged reading time (ERT). As with comprehension and the special 85% mark, prior research has identified ERT values of 15 minutes of engaged time per day as the sweet spot associated with accelerated reading-achievement growth (provided students comprehend what they are reading). Students averaging upwards of 30 minutes per day of reading practice achieve even greater rates of growth. 5

14 Note, we are describing engaged reading time; we know that often teachers have to schedule more clock time to ensure a certain amount of engaged time. For instance, to accomplish 25 minutes of engaged reading time per day, teachers may need to schedule approximately 35 minutes of clock time either in the classroom and/or as homework. Figure 2 presents comprehension and volume in a quadrant graph with two outcomes: (1) spring or end-of-year reading achievement as a percentile rank (PR, interpreted as the percent of students in the same grade who scored lower, with 50 being typical), and (2) fall-to-spring student growth percentile (SGP), interpreted as describing a student s growth experienced during the course of the year in comparison to a student s academic peers (i.e., students in the same grade with a similar starting score). As with percentile rank, SGP operates on a 1 to 99 scale, with 50 being typical. SGPs above 50 indicate accelerated growth relative to academic peers. Figure 2. Characteristics of daily independent reading practice relate to growth and achievement outcomes 99 High achievement, low growth High achievement, high growth Spring achievement (PR) 50 Students who spend 30+ minutes daily reading and show high comprehension (85%+) of what they read tend to have accelerated reading-achievement growth and finish the year well above their grade peers. Students who spend little time daily reading books and show low comprehension of what they read tend to have slow readingachievement growth and finish the year well below their grade peers. 1 Low achievement, low growth Low achievement, high growth Fall-to-spring growth (SGP) Note: Size of bubble indicates number of students in group. Average percent correct (Daily reading comprehension) Daily engaged reading time (Volume) Median SGP: student growth percentile (Growth) Median PR: percentile rank (Spring achievement) Number of students < 15 min ,937 < 65% min , min ,176 < 15 min , % min , min ,402 < 15 min ,602 > 85% min , min ,370 6

15 Using figure 2, let s explore why comprehension is the most important of the reading variables: In the figure, find the students who spend a lot of time reading (30+ minutes per day) but at low comprehension levels (< 65%). Unsurprisingly, they finish the year well behind their peers in achievement. With a median SGP of 11, their growth is slower than 89 percent of their academic peers. Even students at a moderate comprehension level (65 85%) only experience slightly accelerated growth if they do a lot of reading; 30+ minutes per day is associated with a median SGP of 51. In contrast, students hitting high marks both in comprehension (> 85%+) and in reading volume (30+ minutes) tend to experience extremely high rates of growth (a median SGP of 83). About 21% of students in our sample were in this group. A third variable of daily independent reading practice known to influence reading-achievement growth is challenge. In other words, the difficulty or complexity level of the books students read. Since Accelerated Reader is a personalized system, each student is provided with his/her own suggested range, or zone based on prior reading-achievement scores and reading-practice behavior. We refer to this range as ZPD. 3 Teachers often adjust students ZPDs based on how well they are performing on AR comprehension quizzes. Prior research (Renaissance Learning, 2012) on the relationship of challenge to achievement growth has shown the following, controlling for prior achievement and other characteristics of independent reading practice: When we examine less skilled or struggling readers, we see that those who read a lot of appropriately challenging books at high comprehension tended to experience accelerated growth throughout the school year and thus close gaps. Students who read within their personal ZPD tend to have accelerated achievement growth. About 54% of books students read are within their ZPD. The more students read below their personal ZPD, the slower their rate of growth. About 34% of books students read are below their ZPD. When students read above their personal ZPD, it can be associated with accelerated growth, but only if the students understand a majority of a book s main points. Otherwise, reading above ZPD is usually not beneficial. About 12% of books students read are above their ZPD. These results beg a chicken-or-the-egg? question. For students with high rates of growth, did they become stronger readers because they engaged in successful and voluminous reading practice every day, or did they do a lot of reading because they were good readers to begin with? We see evidence of both in the data. While it is true that highperforming students tend to do a lot of reading, it is also true that when we examine less skilled or struggling readers, we see that those who read a lot of appropriately challenging books at high comprehension tended to experience accelerated growth throughout the school year and thus close gaps. This is consistent with other studies (Biancarosa & Snow, 2006; Gersten et al., 2008), which point out that while high-quality instruction and other factors are important for helping struggling readers close achievement gaps, making sure students spend enough time with engaging and appropriately challenging text must be part of the solution. 3. Does setting goals for independent reading practice help students read more, and read better? Students with reading-practice goals are likely to read more books, experience higher success/comprehension rates, and ultimately make greater gains in reading achievement. 3 ZPD, a theoretical concept inspired by Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky, is based on appropriate level of difficulty neither too easy nor too hard where students are challenged without being frustrated (Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher mental processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press). 7

16 It is a well-confirmed finding in various research literatures (e.g., psychology, sports, business) that setting goals is associated with improved performance (Harrison, 2013; MacNamara, Holmes, & Collins, 2006). Reading is no different. In Accelerated Reader software, teachers have the option to set personalized goals for each student for independent reading by marking period. Though not all teachers choose to set goals, those students who have goals set tend to read more than their peers who do not. Students These students with also tend to demonstrate greater growth on reading achievement tests, controlling for grade, prior AR goals achievement, and other factors (see figure 3). Figure 3. Students with goals set for independent reading practice read more and achieve better outcomes On average, students with AR goals (vs. those without set goals):* Took 32% more quizzes Read at a higher level of comprehension Read more books Read more difficult books Read 35% more minutes per day Experienced higher reading achievement growth Scored 4% higher on reading comprehension quizzes Earned 34% more AR points Achieve greater growth than students without AR goals * Based on data from 4,204,771 students reading 199,355,296 books. References Allington, R. L. (2009). If they don t read much 30 years later. In E. H. Hiebert (Ed.), Reading more, reading better (pp ). New York: Guilford. Anderson, R., & Nagy, W. (1991). Word meanings. In R. Barr, M. Kamil, P. Mosenthal, & P. D. Pearson (Eds.), Handbook of reading research, Vol. 2 (pp ). New York: Longman. Anderson, R. C., Wilson, P., & Fielding, L. (1988). Growth in reading and how children spend their time outside of school. Reading Research Quarterly, 23(3), Baker, S. K., Simmons, D. C., & Kameenui, E. J. (1995). Vocabulary acquisition: Synthesis of the research. Eugene: University of Oregon, College of Education, National Center to Improve the Tools of Educators. Biancarosa, G., & Snow, C. E. (2006). Reading next A vision for action and research in middle and high school literacy: A report to Carnegie Corporation of New York (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellence in Education. Retrieved from 8

17 Cunningham, A. E., & Stanovich, K. E. (1998a). Early reading acquisition and its relation to reading experience and ability 10 years later. Developmental Psychology, 33, Cunningham, A. E., & Stanovich, K. E. (1998b). What reading does for the mind. American Educator, 22(1-2), Denver Public Schools. (2007). Million word campaign. Retrieved from Ericsson K. A., Prietula, M. J, & Cokely, E. T. (2007). The making of an expert. Harvard Business Review, 85(7/8), Families in Schools. (2014). Million word challenge. Retrieved from Gersten, R., Compton, D., Connor, C. M., Dimino, J., Santoro, L., Linan-Thompson, S., & Tilly, W. D. (2008). Assisting students struggling with reading: Response to Intervention and multi-tier intervention for reading in the primary grades. A practice guide. (NCEE ). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. Retrieved from Harrison, G. (2013). Psychological skills, coaching, and performance of cyclo-cross athletes (Unpublished thesis). University of Wisconsin La Crosse. MacNamara, A., Holmes, P., & Collins, D. (2006). The pathway to excellence: the role of psychological characteristics in negotiating the challenges of musical development. British Journal of Music Education, 23(03), Nagy, W. E., Anderson, R. C., & Herman, P. A. (1987). Learning word meanings from context during normal reading. American Educational Research Journal, 24, National Center for Education Statistics. (2013). The nation s report card: Trends in academic progress 2012 (NCES ). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers. (2010). Common Core State Standards for English language arts & literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from National Reading Technical Assistance Center. (2010). A review of the current research on vocabulary instruction. Portsmouth, NH: RMC Research Corporation. Retrieved from Renaissance Learning. (2012). Guided independent reading. Wisconsin Rapids, WI: Author. Retrieved from Stahl, S. A. (2005). Four problems with teaching word meanings (and what to do to make vocabulary an integral part of instruction). In E. H. Hiebert & M. L. Kamil (Eds.), Teaching and learning vocabulary: Bringing research to practice (pp ). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. 9

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19 Why reading matters by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, author of Shiloh My first thought, when asked to write an essay about why reading is important, was that I might well have been asked why air is important. How could I imagine life without it? Growing up in the Great Depression, books were especially valued in my family because we had so few of them. Of anything. Of those I remember was a set of Collier Encyclopedias that doubled as roads and bridges for my little brother s toy cars. We had a mouse-eaten collection of Sherlock Holmes, a Bible story book and a Bible, Child Rhymes by James Whitcomb Riley, a set of Mark Twain, and my most beloved picture book, The Little White Bed that Ran Away. But we also had a library card in each of those seven or more different neighborhoods in which we lived, and this brought us The Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland, and a whole host of books that, strange to say, were read to us every evening by one of our parents almost until we entered junior high school. Whenever a teacher tells me that she reads aloud to her class each day, I want to hug her. I can still hear my father s voice, imitating each character from Tom Sawyer s Aunt Polly to Huck Finn and Injun Joe. If listening to these books was so wonderful, I think I decided, writing them must be even better. And so I wrote. Dozens and dozens of little books on the backs of scratch paper. I regularly made excuses for refusing sleepovers, reluctant to miss whatever continued story was being read to us back home. At sixteen, prompted by a former Sunday school teacher-turned-editor, I wrote stories for various denominational publications, and received occasional checks for fifteen dollars or so, depending on word length. When I got to college, someone gave me a copy of a little 35 cent paperback called Good Reading, listing critics choices of the best books in various categories psychology, science, literature, history, sociology, biography and I began to read. Voraciously. Any book I liked. I did not have to read to the end if I didn t like it. It was like a buffet: Animal Farm, Main Street, Varieties of Religious Experience, The Golden Bough, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Theory of the Leisure Class, The Sound and the Fury, Madame Bovary... All for my understanding and pleasure. No tests. No papers to write. Just enjoy, enjoy. And then I began to write in earnest. Now, when a teacher is reading one of my stories to a class and laughing so hard he has to hand the book to someone else, children often write and tell me about it. When a teacher is reading something and there are tears in her eyes, I hear about that too. Because when a book means that much to an adult, and when a student sees that a grown-up is willing to share this treasure with him, he s hooked. And once you open that door to reading, it s open for life. Phyllis Reynolds Naylor had her first short story published when she was sixteen. She is now the author of over 140 books for both children and adults. These include Shiloh, winner of the 1992 Newbery award, and its sequels, and the long-running Alice series, following the life of a young girl from age 8 to 60. Another series, popular among middle-grade readers, begins with The Boys Start the War and The Girls Get Even. Naylor writes serious and coming-of-age novels, as well as humor, mystery, fantasy, suspense, animal stories, gothic horror, and adventure. She lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Photo by Patrice Gilbert. 11

20 Section I: Overall reading Top 25 books read overall, grades 1 12 Grade 1 In total, 1,091,269 first graders read 45,333,897 books and 27,537,712,169 words during the school year. The average number of words read was 23,694 for boys and 25,283 for girls. Approximately 13% of the books were read to students, 14% were read with students, and 73% were read independently. Overall Title, author (ATOS level, interest level)* Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss (1.5, LG) The Foot Book, Dr. Seuss (0.6, LG) Biscuit, Alyssa Satin Capucilli (1.4, LG) Biscuit Goes to School, Alyssa Satin Capucilli (0.9, LG) Biscuit Finds a Friend, Alyssa Satin Capucilli (0.8, LG) Hop on Pop, Dr. Seuss (1.5, LG) Hi, Fly Guy!, Tedd Arnold (1.5, LG) Are You My Mother?, P.D. Eastman (1.6, LG) One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, Dr. Seuss (1.7, LG) Go, Dog. Go!, P.D. Eastman (1.2, LG) The Cat in the Hat, Dr. Seuss (2.1, LG) Bathtime for Biscuit, Alyssa Satin Capucilli (1.1, LG) Biscuit's New Trick, Alyssa Satin Capucilli (1.0, LG) Biscuit Wants to Play, Alyssa Satin Capucilli (0.9, LG) There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Fly Guy, Tedd Arnold (1.6, LG) David Goes to School, David Shannon (0.9, LG) Biscuit's Big Friend, Alyssa Satin Capucilli (0.8, LG) Biscuit Wins a Prize, Alyssa Satin Capucilli (0.9, LG) If You Give a Pig a Pancake, Laura Numeroff (2.5, LG) Biscuit Visits the Big City, Alyssa Satin Capucilli (1.0, LG) Biscuit and the Baby, Alyssa Satin Capucilli (0.9, LG) I Spy Fly Guy!, Tedd Arnold (1.5, LG) Fly High, Fly Guy!, Tedd Arnold (1.4, LG) The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle (2.9, LG) If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Laura Numeroff (2.7, LG) * The average ATOS level of the top 25 books read by first graders was 1.4. ATOS level and interest level together inform book selection. ATOS level is an estimate of text difficulty reported on a grade-level scale. Interest levels refer to the sophistication/maturity of a text s content, ideas, and themes: LG (lower grades, K 3), MG (middle grades, 4 8), MG+ (middle grades plus, 6 and up), and UG (upper grades, 9 12). 12

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