I’m a reader. I just finished reading three books at the same time—thank God for electronic readers (they make it so easy to read multiple books). My wife is a reader. My two grown children are readers. Books are everywhere.
My Bethesda neighborhood is full of readers. The Barnes and Noble at the intersection of Woodmont and Bethesda avenues is a freaking gold mine (it just has to be one of the highest grossing bookstores in the DC region). The place is always jammed, and the children’s section (lower floor) hops with excited new readers learning how to become life-long readers. These are the kids—mostly white and affluent—that will enter our public schools having a listening vocabulary that far exceeds the listening vocabulary of their less affluent peers in say east Silver Spring or downtown Gaithersburg. University of Oregon researchers have quantified these differences and they are massive. Click here to read more about these gaps.
These early reading experiences and advantages definitely seem responsible for higher reading outcomes. By the fifth grade, the vast majority of youngsters in Bethesda public schools score at the advanced level on their Maryland School Assessment (MSA) reading exams. For example, at Bradley Hills Elementary School, 95 percent of its fifth graders scored advanced in reading. In comparison, countywide, 65 percent of fifth graders in the Montgomery County Public Schools scored advanced in reading.
And then of course, these advanced Bethesda young readers
evolve into older advanced readers who ended up scoring high on their SAT
exams. Click here to read a previous blog post about those outcomes.
So, reading matters a lot. And when I saw a recent story on Fox 5, it surprised me that the reporter described reading at Gaithersburg Elementary School as some kind of radical new idea. In 2012, 36.5 percent of Gaithersburg’s fifth graders scored advanced in reading (a mere 11.5 percent of the third graders scored advanced). Well, to be fair to the reporter, what he really said was that not doing boring homework, but instead reading at least 30 minutes a night, was radical. Actually, his words were “radical experiment.” Click here to view the story.
Having kids read each and every night is now radical and experimental? Really!
But if we really want to close the reading gap between Gaithersburg
Elementary School kids—who, on average, are mostly poor and Latino—and Bradley Hills Elementary School kids—who, on average, are mostly white and affluent—we had better raise that nightly reading goal from say 30 minutes to something north of 120 minutes. Because a mere 30 minutes a night sounds kind of wimpy to me. It definitely is not radical—not by Bethesda standards.
For those interested in reading more about the homework
debates—does it contribute to learning—click here for a really good summary of the research findings and here for the full report.