Research by Dundee University finds that pupils read relatively difficult books throughout primary education before an "alarming" dip in standards at secondary level.
By the age of 11, children are accessing books aimed at pupils with a chronological reading age six months lower than their own, with standards continuing to decline as pupils grow up. The study found that pupils aged 14 to 16 were actually reading texts that were also listed among the top titles for seven- to eight-year-olds such as The Twits by Roald Dahl. Many older pupils – especially boys – also turned to non-fiction books about sport, with Roy App’s biology of Wayne Rooney named in the top 20 most popular titles. But the report published by Renaissance Learning, the education company, said that sporting titles were “not sufficiently challenging for their level of ability”.
The study – based on a large-scale analysis of the reading habits of 426,000 children in 2,000 UK schools – suggested that primary teachers were more likely to push pupils towards challenging books because of awareness of the importance of developing literacy skills at a young age. But it is feared that reading takes a backward step in secondary education because more time is spent focusing on other subjects.
Keith Topping, professor of educational and social research at Dundee University, said: “There is a marked downturn in the difficulty of books at secondary transfer and this does not necessarily reflect a lack of ability to read more difficult texts. The results seem to point to under challenge at either end of the spectrum, both for struggling readers and high-ability readers.”
Researchers logged the difficulty level of books using a system that scans texts for average sentence length, the difficulty of words and the size of the particular title. Pupils were also quizzed about their understanding of chosen books.
The study found that difficultly level of books “tends to plateau” in the first year of secondary school. By the time pupils hit the age of 12 standards “decline absolutely, which is alarming”, the report said.
Question 1 (2 points) Indicate whether the following statements are true or false and write down which part of the text justifies your answer.
a. “The Twist” by Roald Dahl is recommended for seven-year-old children.
b. Older pupils prefer non-fiction books
c. No special attention is paid to reading in secondary schools.
d. Secondary students are unable to read difficult texts.
Question 2 (2 points) Answer the following questions in your own words.
a. What are the differences between an eleven-year-old and a fifteen-year-old reader?
b. How were the books classified?
Question 3 (1.5 points) Find words or phrases in the text that correspond in meaning to the words and definitions given.
a. to fall, to drop (paragraph 1)
b. proposed, intended (paragraph 2)
c. really (paragraph 2)
d. ability (paragraph 3)
e. ordinary, common (paragraph 5)
Question 4 (1.5 points) Complete the following sentences without changing the meaning.
a. The report said sporting titles were “not sufficiently challenging for their level of ability”.
b. Primary teachers were more likely to push pupils towards challenging books because of awareness of the importance of developing literacy skills at a young age.
Because primary teachers…
c. By the time pupils hit the age of 12 standards “decline absolutely, which is alarming”, the report said.
The report said that…
Question 5 (3 points) Write a short essay (120-150 words) on the following topic:
“It is a good idea to make pupils read novels at secondary school” do you agree with this statement?