Study Finds Students Not Reading Enough Complex Texts

Whether Common Core or not, state standards have started requiring students to read more complex texts, including an increase in non-fiction pieces, in order to improve literacy across all subjects and better prepare students for life after high school. A new report from Renaissance Learning, the company that administers the Accelerated Reader program, examines student reading patterns and how their scores compare to college and career readiness. Overall, the data shows that students’ reading of texts within the new college- and career-ready difficulty bands is inconsistent. From sixth grade through high school, less than 15% of students, on average, read one or more books in their target range.

“With changing standards and more rigorous expectations, we need to equip our students with both the passion and skills to read well and become well-read,” said Eric Stickney, Renaissance Learning’s director of education research, in a press release. “The findings underscore just how valuable reading is in preparing students to succeed in all stages of their academic and professional careers.”

Additional findings

  • The nonfiction articles that students are assigned to read are generally more challenging than the books students select. Article reading in most grades is more likely to meet goals for the text complexity grade bands.
  • By the time students leave high school, they are typically reading books about two levels below what they will encounter as incoming college freshman.  
  • Books with science, engineering, and math (STEM) topics are lacking from students’ reading diets.
  • Overall, boys read a greater percentage of nonfiction books at all grade levels compared to girls with nonfiction reading peaking in grades 4 and 5 for both genders. 
  • If students invest a few extra minutes a day in reading, they can see long-term results.

Read the 2016 What Kids Are Reading report.