The issue for the post-pandemic collapse of reading for fun—which leads to reading loss and the lack of measurable recovery—may be traced to what we did as a society during the pandemic.
We compensated for forced remote learning by buying technology; assuring almost all kids now have high speed access and Chrome books or tablets. The average age of becoming a smart phone user is 11, down 4 years from 15 since 2019.
Not surprisingly, student out-of-school time internet usage has doubled, twice, in ten years. Now 6-8 hours A DAY for kids ages 11-17.
So, lawmakers bemoan the plummeting reading scores and urge or mandate schools to do something, anything! Hence 38 states have now mandated more structured ways of teaching reading.
BUT, looking at reading achievements in isolation is like looking at a kid who drinks a small healthy glass of milk every morning and wondering why he is overweight and not fit.
Endlessly debating whether the morning milk should be lower fat, fortified, mixed with chocolate, organic, almond, or served in a larger glass, steers educators down these “got milk?” analogies, looking for ways to boost the effect of a 149 calorie glass of milk on a 2500 calorie day. It’s the equivalent of ignoring 8 hours a day of screen time, where students are munching on the screen equivalent to junk food.
We seem to ignore the fact that students spend a mere 29 minutes (and dropping) reading during out-of-school time and ignoring the overwhelming screen time equivalent of “internet junk food”.
This is one reason Kids Read Now sends 30,000 books every day to 130,000+ families as we Deliver Reading Successes to impact the summer slide and improve literacy in general.