; The 2005 ACT College Readiness Benchmark for Reading
found that only one-half of the students tested were ready for
college-level reading. Reading scores were the lowest in a
Young people in the United States are not just substandard
readers, they are increasingly reluctant readers—even in their
free time. In the National Endowment for the Arts’ comprehensive 2007 survey of American reading, To Read or Not to
Read, researchers found that a “calamitous, universal falling
off of reading” occurs for many students at around age 13 and
often continues through the rest of these students’ lives.
Educators know the commonly cited culprits behind the
decline of reading: poverty, lack of parent education, print-poor environments at home, second-language issues, the over-scheduling of children, and competition from electronic
media. To this list, I would like to add a factor I call readicide,
meaning practices educators employ to raise reading scores
that actually kill students’ love of reading. Readicide is occurring, ironically, in the one place where a love of reading
should be fostered—schools.
© JAMES YANG
How have schools become coconspirators in the decline of
reading? I suggest four contributing factors: ( 1) Schools act as
though they value the development of test takers more than
the development of readers, ( 2) Schools are limiting authentic
reading experiences, ( 3) Teachers are overteaching books, and
( 4) Teachers are underteaching books. Let’s look at how each
of these practices leads to readicide, and examine steps
teachers can take to counteract them.
these. And if we are to guide students to become thoughtful
adults who possess such qualities, we must face the elephant
in the room: U.S. students’ lack of reading proficiency and
their general disinclination to read.
The signs are not encouraging. Consider the following
points taken from a 2006 report on adolescent literacy by the
National Council of Teachers of English:
; The 2004 National Assessment of Educational Progress
showed that U.S. secondary school students are reading at a
rate significantly below expected levels.
; The Alliance for Excellent Education points out that 8. 7
million secondary students—one in four—are unable to read
and comprehend the material in their textbooks.
Schools develop test takers instead of readers.
A curriculum steeped in test preparation drives shallow
teaching and learning. Consider, for example, the monumental task confronting social science teachers in California,
who must teach the following standard from the 10th grade
WWW.ASCD.ORG 37 R E V E R S I N G