We are joined this week by Lauren Tarshis, mother of four, author of the New York Times Bestselling series of books, I Survived, and Senior Vice President, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher for Scholastic Classroom Magazines. We connected with her to talk about her work with Scholastic’s Kids and Family Reading Report, specifically a section they call the “Decline by 9,” which is a trend Scholastic’s Report has noted where children’s interest in reading sharply drops around age nine.
In this episode we talk about:
1. The Kids and Family Reading Report, what it is, how it is used.
2. The “decline by nine-” around age nine is when kids start to use reading in a new way; they read in order to learn, to explore, to build knowledge and expand their understanding of the world and themselves. Right at this critical point in a child’s reading journey, however, they have found that attitudes towards reading start to shift from reading as something enjoyable to not.
3. Lauren mentions three thoughts on why this could be happening. In the US, 3rd grade, which is the grade most 9 year olds are in, is the beginning of “high-stakes testing.” Teachers are under huge amounts of pressure to help their kids perform well on reading tests, so reading goes from a social, enjoyable experience in the classroom to something more pressuring and stressful. This is also the age that more kids start to do things outside of school and kids have more demands on their time after school. Finally, as every parent can relate to is electronics and the role they play in tempting kids (and us adults!) away from reading books.
4. Why it is important to know about the decline and the effects of it- “it’s empowering to know, because there really are things we can do.”
5. Knowledge gap- they are finding that kids are knowing less. They don’t know the name of the state they are living in, that the Mississippi is a river, what Mount Rushmore is, who the Beatles are, etc. This is tied to the decline of reading and not adding to their “vocabulary” of knowledge.
6. “There are pretty simple steps that parents can take.” Deemphasizing electronics, carving reading time for the whole family, having books in the car, pull out a book instead of a phone if your child is anxious or impatient at a restaurant.
7. What can you do if a child has already experienced the decline? Building reading time into the family schedule, finding books they are interested in (even if they aren’t the most “literary” books). Small things become habits!
8. Are there long-term effects of the decline by nine? What everyone agrees on at the baseline is that the ability to read at grade level in third grade is a significant milestone. There are some weighty statistics attached to that.
9. We may not be able to make all of our kids “love” reading, but we can help them see the importance of it and create a culture of reading that is positive and celebratory!
10. Kids want stories that inspire them and teach them and take them to new places.
Lauren left us with a great idea of how we as parents and caregivers can get started on putting all of this into practice this week. She invited us to not feel like failures, but to feel empowered! Take some simple steps to make reading a part of your kids’ lives- diminish time on electronics, model reading yourself and sticking with it even through the tough times!
We are so grateful to Lauren for taking the time to talk with us! More information about her, her books, and Scholastic’s Kids and Family Reading Report can be found in the following places:
Lauren Tarshis’ latest book release, I Survived The Great Molasses Flood, 1919:
Scholastic’s Kids and Family Reading Report: https://www.scholastic.com/content/dam/KFRR/Downloads/KFRReport_Finding%20Their%20Story.pdf
Books we mentioned in this episode:
Redwall, by Brian Jaques (1st book in series)
George by Alex Gino