Reading Statistics

Is teaching reading, and more particularly literature, a losing prospect? There are days when I feel this way. Yesterday I took an anonymous poll and found that 1/3 of my College in the High School students were behind in the current reading and 1/4 admitted not finishing at least one of the books read in the class.

Is something wrong when even the highest level students aren’t finishing their reading assignments? Are they too busy with other activities? Do they put the assignments involving “just reading” last on the priority lists? Is it the literature taught (though 85% of the students in my classes said the books we have read were at least “interesting or enjoyable”? Here are some reading statistics to consider.

From The Literacy Company:

  • 46% of American adults cannot understand the label on their prescription medicine.
  • It is estimated that as many as 15 percent of American students may be dyslexic.
  • 50 percent of American adults are unable to read an eighth grade level book.
  • There are almost half a million words in our English Language – the largest language on earth, incidentally – but a third of all our writing is made up of only twenty-two words.
  • In a class of 20 students, few if any teachers can find even 5 minutes of time in a day to devote to reading with each student.
  • Out-of-school reading habits of students has shown that even 15 minutes a day of independent reading can expose students to more than a million words of text in a year.
  • The average reader spends about 1/6th of the time they spend reading actually rereading words.
  • When the State of Arizona projects how many prison beds it will need, it factors in the number of kids who read well in fourth grade.

Those are some sobering stats! How about these I got through this site’s search function:

  • 1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
  • 42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.
  • 80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
  • 70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
  • 57 percent of new books are not read to completion.
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28 thoughts on “Reading Statistics

  1. Gym334

    Is teaching reading, and more particularly literature, a losing prospect? There are days when I feel this way. Yesterday I took an anonymous poll and found that 1/3 of my College in the High School students were behind in the current reading and 1/4 admitted not finishing at least one of the books read in the class. (I USED TO HAVE THAT PROBLEM. WHY DO YOU THINK THIS PROBLEM EXISTS?)

    Is something wrong when even the highest level students aren’t finishing their reading assignments? (OH, FER SURE, SOMETHING IS WRONG:)

    Are they too busy with other activities? Do they put the assignments involving “just reading” last on the priority lists? (YES, BUT)

    is it the literature taught (though 85% of the students in my classes said the books we have read were at least “interesting or enjoyable”? (HOW WOULD THEY KNOW? THEY HAVEN’T READ THE STUFF THEY ARE SAYING THAT ABOUT:)

    Here are some reading statistics to consider.

    From The Literacy Company:

    46% of American adults cannot understand the label on their prescription medicine. (AN THE SAME PRECENTAGE OF DOCTORS!

    It is estimated that as many as 15 percent of American students may be dyslexic. YEAH, AND 60% OF ALL STUDENT QUILIFY FOR 504 PROGRAMS.

    50 percent of American adults are unable to read an eighth grade level book. NOR WOULD THEY WANT TO:)

    There are almost half a million words in our English Language – the largest language on earth, incidentally – but a third of all our writing is made up of only twenty-two words. (WHO WRITE. ARE WE COUNTING EMAIL AND TEXTING)

    In a class of 20 students, few if any teachers can find even 5 minutes of time in a day to devote to reading with each student. (THAT IS A FLAT OUT LIE OR A CRYING SHANE OF DISORGANIZATION AND INABILITY TO DO THE JOB)

    Out-of-school reading habits of students has shown that even 15 minutes a day of independent reading can expose students to more than a million words of text in a year. (THAT IS FOR SURE, BUT WHAT IS YOUR PLAN TO GET THEM TO READ AWAY FROM SCHOOL, WHAT IS THEIR MOTIVATION TO READ?)

    The average reader spends about 1/6th of the time they spend reading actually rereading words. (TRHAT SOUNDS REALLY STUPID. TIME FOR A METHODOLOGY CHECK ON THESE GUYS))

    When the State of Arizona projects how many prison beds it will need, it factors in the number of kids who read well in fourth grade. (THE STATE OF AR, NEVER PROJECTS ANYTHING. IT IS RUN BY THE SAME KIND OF IDIOTS WE HAVE IN D.C:)
    Those are some sobering stats! How about these I got through this site’s search function:

    1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives. (WHY)
    42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.(WHY)
    80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year. (YET, BOOK STORES THRIVE)
    70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years. (HOWEVER, I STAND IN LINE EVERY TINE I GO)
    57 percent of new books are not read to completion. (I KNOW, I HAVE A NUMBER OF THOSE, THEY ARE WHAT WE GENERALLY CALL,
    “BOOKLS THAT ARE MARKETED REALLY WELL AND SOUND INTERESTING ON THE DAILY SHOW, OR
    OPRAH AND TURNED OUT TO BE CRAP.

    Hey, If you really care about developing enthusiastic, life long reader, and having kids really understand literature and thrist for great stories, Contact me. I got nothing to sell. all you need is a real desire to be effective and I will teach you how to make this problem go away.

    Reply
    1. Jude

      This statistic really fascinates me – “a third of all our writing is made up of only twenty-two words” – so WHERE can I find out what those 22 words are ???

      Reply
  2. Ira Creasman

    I’d be happy to know how to make this problem go away as well. I’m all ears (or eyes if you prefer.)

    -Ira

    Reply
  3. Patti

    This might sound crazy, but can you offer a choice of things to read at the same time? I, for example, never finished Moby Dick in high school. I read everything else assigned, but I could not get myself into that book. I wasn’t into Joyce, either, but I could force myself to do it and would have preferred to read another of his works instead of that darned whale book. I have heard of teachers offering multiple books simultaneously and allowing the kids to choose their top two. The teacher gets to balance out the groups based on what the kids prefer and not everyone will get to read what they want each time, but choice is a powerful motivator, I think. The kids who read the same book discuss it as a group rather than as a whole class with some sort of deliverable to the whole class for accountability.

    I have since read Moby Dick, by the way. It took me more than 10 years to go back and do it. I still didn’t like it. :)

    Good luck!

    Reply
  4. Gym334

    Okay, I will do just that. It is free, If you don’t like it, you can always throw it away:)

    Look under the topic “Student Driven Reading.”

    Reply
  5. drpezz Post author

    In truth, I think my students have not been reading as much because we have quite a range of skill levels in our upper-level courses (open enrollment) and because the students think they have to be involved in every activity possible to impress colleges. They don’t believe us when we say that most universities want to see passion. It’s not unusual to have kids in 2-3 sports and 5-6 clubs. They’re spread too thinly.

    Reply
  6. Gym334

    Okay, I must have missed something here. Being new I did not realize that you had advanced kids. I know nothing about kids who are jockeying for college admissions. I have never believed that having everyone read the same book made much sense, but I did all that required reading in college in the name of being prepared to hear professors lecture about pieces of literature that “they just liked to talk about.” Part of the requirement for getting one’s ticket punched I guess:)

    Reply
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  8. K

    I’ve pretty much stopped buying books because I realized I had a bookshelf full of books I’d never read, and those I’d cracked I’d never finished, even the ones I liked. I can’t remember the last physical book I actually finished, but I think it was Snow Crash, and that was over six years ago. (And it wasn’t even mine.) I haven’t read a book at all this year. It’s not because I’m illiterate, but because I don’t have a lot of alone time to spend reading, and I’d much rather read the Web or play a video game during that time.

    Reply
  9. Aswile Meshack

    How much researches have been done on interest and attitudes on secondary students reading habits, and who is ressponsible for such researches.COULD YOU SHOW THE STATISTICS IN TANZANIA

    Reply
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  11. bditws

    Am working on my book’s proposal and was trying to find stats on the number of “teachers” that buy books. This poppped up. Some very sad stats especially the prison beds-to 4th grade ratio stat. I used to be a 1st and 2nd grade teacher in a low-socio economic school. We keep trying to “fix” schools by implementing different reading programs or placing more requirements on teachers but we can’t fix schools without helping the broader community. Ok. I better stop there before I rant too much. Need to get back to my book so I can sell it to the 30% of adults that still read.

    Cheers
    Ryan

    http://thechinproject.wordpress.com/

    Reply
    1. drpezz Post author

      Good luck to you and your book. I tell you what: to boost sales of your book, let me know when you finish and I’ll have a post here to help you sell it. A couple more sales couldn’t hurt, right? :)

      Those stats are frustrating to say the least. However, I’m always hopeful that things will turn around. Ever the optimist, I am.

      Reply
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  13. Chad

    Some potential shortcomings of the following statistics reported above, which I have noticed in merely 5 minutes or so of actually thinking about them, are as follows:

    1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives. (WHY)

    It seems this statistic could only be computed if information on the entire lifespan of members of the sample was obtained. If it was, that means the sample is necessarily very dated and thus the numbers may not bear any resemblance to contemporary reading habits. If the statistic is somehow extrapolated on the basis of a sample of the years in people’s lives, then you have to deal with shortcomings inherent in extrapolating beyond the known range of data. I would want much more information on how this statistic was obtained before considering it to even moderately approximate actual contemporary reading habits.

    42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.(WHY)

    Perhaps because college graduates consume more information via electronic sources (e.g. the internet). Thus reading books may not tell you anything about reading habits. There could conceivably be a negative correlation: as # print books read by college graduates decreases, # electronic books or other non-print resources read increases.

    80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year. (YET, BOOK STORES THRIVE)

    Again, print reading should be expected to decline as electronic reading increases. Low rates of book buying could actually indicate there is more reading going on!

    70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years. (HOWEVER, I STAND IN LINE EVERY TINE I GO)

    Same as the last two. Why would one go to a bookstore, that may not even have what they want in stock, when one could order it online or possibly even download it for free?

    57 percent of new books are not read to completion.

    This is uninformative without, e.g., a control for # new books bought by those who were included in the sample. Perhaps avid readers tend to buy more than they actually read, though they read more than readers who didn’t buy as many books. That would inflate the number of books not completed even though more books were actually read by those who sometimes didn’t complete them.

    Reply
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