Monday, May 05, 2008

A Reader's Survey

The front page of the Washington Post this morning highlighted a web survey which claimed to know what kids are reading. The survey conducted by Renaissance Learning Web site sampled the reading habits of 3 million children and the 78.5 million books they read. According to the survey, the five most popular authors are: Dr. Seuss, E.B. White, Judy Blume, S.E. Hinton and Harper Lee.

According my very unscientific sample, (a progeny group of two), the books by Hinton and Lee were "required reading" books in their English classes. And they hated them. Reedy Girl loved "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing" as did The Harpist. Both had it read to them by the fourth grade teachers. Reedy Girl was thumbs down on "The Outsiders" saying it was a "stupid book" and "nobody in her class liked it." The Harpist shuddered at mention of Harper Lee's book and said that her teacher "killed it" with all of the analysis.

Which brings me to my objections.

1. The study was done by a group which sells reading programs to schools.

Accelerated Reader, AR, ATOS, Make Teaching Exciting and Learning Fun, Renaissance, Renaissance Learning, the Renaissance Learning logo, and STAR Reading are trademarks of Renaissance Learning, Inc., and its subsidiaries, registered, common law, or pending registration in the United States and other countries.
2. The participants were students in those schools which used the copyrighted software.

3. The participants only recorded the books they had read, not whether or not they (a) liked them or (b) were required to read them.

What would be more interesting would be to find out from public libraries across the country what readers actually like. Our local branch is always soliciting comments and "reviews" to get a broader understanding of what people liked. They recognize that just because a book is checked out that people did not necessarily read it (or enjoy it.)

To be blunt, the article in the Post this morning is not "news" - it is a sales pitch for this company. It makes me shudder.



beckyboop said...


Not like Harper Lee??? I love "To Kill a Mockingbird" and read it at least once every two years or so. Teachers can kill a good many books with over analysis, I admit. But still...that is a great book! :-)

T J said...

Pshaw. No mention of J.K. Rowling, Lemony Snicket, Barbara Park (Junie B Jones), Mary Pope Osborne (Magic Treehouse), whoever writes Goosebumps (thankfully my kids haven't gotten into that series!)? What a crock. Thanks for pointing out the real agenda behind this piece of "news"!

Tricia (another fan of To Kill a Mockingbird :^)

DebD said...

On of Doug's pet-peeves is bad reporting on surveys and statistics. He would be just as annoyed as you over this one too.

Cathy said...

Your last paragraph puts it all in a nutshell!