Secondary pupils should read more demanding literature

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Primary pupils choose texts beyond their reading age, but this trend reverses in secondary school. Now researchers want teachers and librarians to encourage more difficult reading.

According to a survey of more than half a million pupils at 2,200 schools, both high-ability and struggling secondary school readers are being “seriously under-challenged” by the difficulty of the books they are given to read, the Independent reports. In contrast, pupils at primary school much prefer challenging books.

The emphasis in schools on raising reading levels falls away in secondary schools and youngsters tend to opt for books below their reading age. The report’s authors want secondary teachers and librarians to encourage their pupils to read appropriately, to prevent the “marked downturn” in the difficulty of their chosen books.

The annual What Kids Are Reading study of books read in schools also found that pupils prefer fiction that has been turned into blockbuster movies like the Hunger Games series, rather than traditional favourites.

The research also found that there is a difference between the ‘most read’ books in schools, which were dominated by Jeff Kinney, author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, and the ‘most popular’ category, where pupils chose their favourite books. In this category, the overwhelming favourite for primary school children was Demon Dentist by David Walliams, while secondary students voted for The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

Whether you’re a primary or secondary teacher, do you agree with the survey’s findings? Share your views with the Eteach community!

3 thoughts on “Secondary pupils should read more demanding literature

  1. I agree with the findings. There are some problems that teachers face with this problem. Secondary school pupils tend to keep reading at the level they’ve been used to at primary and then slip back in year 8 and 9. This could be because of a reduction in time allocated in the curriculum for reading for pleasure. It could also be because teachers do not have the time to keep up to date with new children’s literature to recommend more challenging reads to pupils to stretch them. Some of the best books are quite lengthy and teachers have no time to read widely. It is difficult to keep up to date with what’s being published too, and it’s expensive to stock libraries as well. So, it’s a mixture of economy, curriculum time and work-life balance issues which hold pupils back from progressing along with general literacy issues too. It’s a shame because I have always said that reading is the key to doing well in all or any subjects at school, not only English but ALL subjects. This study should be extended to investigate more evidence of the causes of pupils reading habits. My comments are only based on 20 years of teaching, with 8 years at secondary level. Such a crucial topic.

  2. I agree with the findings. My experience is as a primary HLTA and as a parent of two post teenage children. My daughter, especially, found the secondary school required/ recommended reading very dull and uninspiring. Her ( state) primary school introduced the children to a wealth of classics, old and new- from William Shakespeare to William Mayne. She and her friends entered secondary school with an adult level of reading ability and comprehension. Her ( grammar school) secondary English teacher introduced them to teenage magazines at the age of 11 and encouraged the girls to read these instead!! Fortunately my daughter had already established a love of reading which endured, despite the school’ s lack of appropriate stimulus!! We used the local library on a very regular basis. I don’ t see the problem as a financial one, rather a lack of knowledge of the extensive reading development established in good primary schools.

  3. I partly agree with the findings as there also has been done research on the adult reading skills, on understanding of what you have read already and how did you understand to the written text. For example some adults already employed by the secondary schools (not as teachers but as the general employees) have still persisting difficulties to understand to a written text or to a simple spoken request and it getting worse if it’s more structured for them to deal with and the result is that they are responding inadequately to the written text as this is an exact result of the secondary education impact on some of students using so called “Text Guides” as it’s revealed as not being helpful in their later life ( there are no more Text Guides ) and these employees despite having perhaps good GCSE results are becoming ” The black holes in the Communication trough their wrong perception.”

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