Feature

Reading Choice is Reading Engagement

Diana Maliszewski
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It was 4:30 p.m. on a weekday in late October, when two grade 6 boys, Prajeeth and Aaron, rushed into the school library just as I, the teacher-librarian, was about to leave.

“We really need to use the computers NOW!” they exclaimed.

“Do you have a project due?” I asked.

“No, we NEED to find out the nominees for this year’s Silver Birch Awards!” Their eyes were bright with anticipation.

“The list of nominees just came out. I might not have those titles yet in our collection, but I’ll be buying them soon,” I reassured them.

“But if we know them early, we can reserve them at the public library,” was the reply.

The enthusiasm these boys demonstrated for reading is a passion that educators around the province would love to see in their students. The statistics surrounding reading engagement are sobering, but there are promising ways to reinvigorate the most reluctant of readers.

A decline in reading engagement

In 2011, the advocacy group People for Education published a startling report called  Reading for Joy . The study, which is downloadable at  peopleforeducation.ca, revealed that there has been a dramatic decline in students who report that they like to read. The percentage of children in grade 3 who report that they “like to read” dropped from 75 percent in 1998–99 to 50fifty in 2010–11. The number of students in grade 6 who “like to read” fell from 65 to 50 percent in the same time period. As the study elaborates, this reduction in reading pleasure is a cause for concern: “Students with a more positive attitude towards reading tend to be more successful in all subjects.”

This concern is not limited to students and schools. The National Reading Campaign is a Canada-wide organization dedicated to making reading a national priority for everyone. In 2013, they conducted a Pleasure Reading Survey. They found and shared on their website  nationalreadingcampaign.ca, that 5 percent of the Canadian adults they surveyed admitted to not reading for pleasure at all and 12 percent said they read for pleasure less this year than the year before. The benefits of pleasure reading extend beyond the academic realm, as this infographic published by the National Reading Campaign can attest.

Harmful solutions

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Joyce Public School is located in northwest Toronto, in an unprepossessing one-storey brick building.