Millennials these days are so busy fiddling with their technological gadgets and maintaining their #personalbrands, they have basically forgotten how to read like grown-ups. The youth of today are eschewing realism and historical fiction in favor of fantasy, horror, and sci-fi novels. As part of NPR's month-long look at the media consumed by today's youth, they examine what these modern reading habits means for today's reading children.
Renaissance Learning examined the reading habits of high school students and found that as younger readers age, their tastes do not mature. For both their assignments and their outside choices, teenagers are reading books written for much younger children. (It doesn't mention that the reading comprehension level for teenagers is often well below their assigned grade level.) Renaissance Learning's study looked at 8.6 million students, who read a total of 283 million books, and assessed the "grade-level" of these tomes based on vocabulary and sentence complexity. For example, The Hunger Games, factors in at a fifth-grade level.
Eric Stickney of Renaissance Learning told NPR:
"The complexity of texts students are being assigned to read has declined by about three grade levels over the past 100 years. A century ago, students were being assigned books with the complexity of around the ninth- or 10th-grade level. But in 2012, the average was around the sixth-grade level."
Stickney notes that even the assigned classics are below grade level. While those mentioned are written simply (Of Mice and Men, Animal Farm, and To Kill a Mockingbird), the ideas, complexity of character, and social context in each of these three at least, is relatively mature. Books by Charles Dickens, George Bernard Shaw, Edith Wharton, Sophocles, and the Bronte sisters have fallen out of favor since 1989. While Shakespeare remains assigned with some frequency, most of the other volumes on the reading list are far below the teenager's grade level, even in the migration to newer fare, which includes popular novels like The Help and The Notebook.
Oh also did you pick up on that disclosure hidden in this NPR examination? The Notebook is a book that's assigned in a school somewhere.
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