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The Battle Against Readicide
Iwan Gunawan, author

If you're not famili

If you're not familiar with the word "readicide", author Kelly Gallagher defines it as "The systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools." His book, Readicide, identifies aspects that contribute to the decline of time spent reading and kill the love of reading.

One of those aspects is simply choice. Students who have more choice in what they read are more likely to have a positive relationship with reading. In addition, children who had the habit of reading self-selected literature for pleasure often score higher in a variety of school subjects.

While many people might see reading as simply literature practice, the truth is that it impacts so much more. Students who spend more time reading frequently have better-enhanced concentration, a more extensive vocabulary, more background knowledge, improved memory skills, and are oftentimes better critical thinkers.

Think about a student who spends just 30 minutes a day reading from kindergarten through their senior year of high school. On average, that student will encounter 13.7 million words. Compare this to someone who spends 15 minutes a day reading for the same number of years, and that student encounters 1.5 million words. (Source)

Exposure is key and making time for reading matters. This is especially true in young children.

More and more students start school with a love of reading. Kindergartens get excited about library time and picking out their own books for the first time. These young elementary students are curious about a variety of subjects, and their brains work as a sponge soaking up new information. According to a study about reading attitudes by Joseph C. Kush and Marley M. Watkins, students' attitudes towards reading decrease significantly around third grade. These two researchers used an Elementary Reading Attitude Survey (ERAS) to evaluate students kindergarten through fourth grade. It was at about the third year in school when students began to feel negative about reading.

Kelly Gallagher would attribute this to the age where students are no longer learning to read but reading to learn. When students focus on text for simply academic purposes, they do not engage in the material. They might be reading text to find out answers to study guides or make sure they are prepared for an upcoming test. It is less likely they are reading a book "for fun". Chances are they will be required to complete some form of assessment on the material. This practice, which begins so early in schools, has a negative impact on reading.

Even though some material needs to be read and then assessed, the important message here is making sure students are exposed to a variety of texts, at various levels, and are given time to explore these books without the pressure of attached assessments. No one is out to get these young readers for not meeting a page requirement or misunderstanding the main idea, educators simply need to get words in front of students in a positive and active way. Reading should be an active experience, not a "sit and get" assignment. If students can have some choice in their independent reading, it will go a long way in the battle against "readicide" and help students truly love reading again.

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