Why We Need to Measure Reading with Reading

AAP (Association of American Publishers) | September 9, 2016

Guest blog post by Todd Brekhus

Last year, 39.5 million adults in the U.S. used a fitness tracker to have access to a plethora of personalized information – sleep patterns, heart rate, steps walked, calories consumed and burned, and more. This type of technology is dynamically changing health and fitness, allowing everyone from pro athletes to wellness-seekers to gather real-time data during their activities to motivate them, inform targeted improvements and monitor their growth. Our industry is on the cusp of a similar scenario as it relates to reading and literacy.

We have an opportunity never before possible to support schools in capturing and using real-time reading data to accelerate learning and ensure every student is reading on grade level.

Ask a group of school administrators what they really want to know about their students’ reading, and they’ll likely tell you that they want to know about students’ motivation to read, engagement in reading and love for reading. These outcomes have been challenging to measure, yet they are critical determinants of students’ success in school and beyond.

A growing body of research shows that the more students read, the better readers and learners they become. For instance, a research team from the University of Nevada-Reno found that students’ access to books at home has a substantial effect on their educational achievement over time, regardless of parental education and income. Additionally, studies indicate that when students have their choice of “just-right” books and ownership over their reading they are motivated to read and read more.

Historically, the tools available for educators to track reading “wellness” have been inefficient and insufficient. Standardized tests and quizzes provide only snippets of information, after-the-fact, leaving educators, parents and students with an incomplete, and at times inaccurate, picture of reading and literacy skills. Other methods used such as self-reported reading logs and surveys can be laborious and unreliable.

Emerging e-book technology and digital literacy platforms can help rewrite this story. For administrators to address their burning questions about students’ reading and literacy, they need real-time information on student behaviors and attitudes as well as their reading activity and growth, including:

  • Number of books browsed and read
  • Number of words and pages read
  • Time spent reading
  • Interests
  • Lexile scores
  • Comprehension and vocabulary quizzes
  • Student use of literacy tools that show their annotations, short-answer responses, and more within their own digital copies of the text

This information not only supports teachers in delivering individualized instruction and guidance, it also helps students reflect on their reading, see their growth and become motivated to improve. Students can address critical questions about their own learning: Is my stamina for reading growing? Am I thinking about my own choices of reading/books? And what can I do to improve?  

As publishers and content providers, we have the opportunity to champion this change and empower schools, students and their families to measure reading with reading.

 Todd Brekhus is the president of myON, a business unit of Capstone, which offers a personalized reading environment that matches students' interests and reading levels and tracks their reading growth. Prior to joining Capstone, Brekhus held executive positions in a range of education businesses, and spent eight years as an English teacher, department chair, and technology director. You can connect with him on Twitter here.

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