I never heard of the term ‘Readicide’ until the March/April 2011 issue of Knowledge Quest landed in my mailbox with the theme ‘Reversing Readicide’. The term, Readicide, comes from the book, Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reding and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher. Gallagher defines readicide as

the practices educators emplore to raise reading scores that actually kill students’ love of reading

Even though I wasn’t aware of the term, I’ve witnessed and unfortunately contributed to readicide. Every time I’ve used the availability of an AR test to help me narrow down my consideration list, I’ve contributed to readicide. For you see, many books that teens would enjoy reading don’t have an AR test. Not only do we put limits on what students can read by requiring the book to have an AR test but we also limit the students in other ways. For example, reading non-fiction books is frowned upon. Or, we require the book to have a reading level way above what any adult would read at for pleasure.

Of the 18 Reasons to Not Use AR, the following are applicable to my situation:

  • Students are limited to books with an AR test
  • Some students are limited to books written at a certain reading level
  • AR tests aren’t available or have limited availability for new authors (Amanda Hocking), and best selling authors (Danielle Steel, Steig Larsson)
  • AR tests turn some students into cheaters
  • AR tests train students to collect facts as they read so they can pass a multiple choice test
  • AR tends to make reading into an isolated academic task
  • AR is expensive

So, how do we turn this around? Here are the suggestions I gleaned from the articles.

  • Give them books they’ll love
  • Let students select their pleasure reading (no requirements as to reading level, type of book, etc.)
  • Provide interesting books and an array of other reading materials including newspapers, magazines, comics (graphic novels) and blogs
  • Encourage students to talk about (or blog about) what they’ve read
  • Encourage notion that pleasure of reading is its own reward
  • Help students realize that they don’t have to finish a book they don’t like
  • Select books for reluctant readers – particularly guys
  • Purchase popular titles as they come out versus having to wait for annual purchases
  • Purchase shorter nonfiction books for personal reading

A couple of articles discussed using AR as an integral part of their reading program. Some of the strategies used by these schools could be incorporated into our use of AR to help avert readicide, including:

  • When book level goals are used, set them at the  bottom of the student’s individual reading zone. Thus, a student would never have a book-level goal above 4.5
  • When a book doesn’t have a test, provide alternatives to the AR test (writing a test, creating a book trailer, etc.)
  • Set aside time each period of English for sustained silent reading
  • Encourage the use of reading logs, blogs and/or participation in online book discussions
  • Allow reading of nonfiction books
  • Set goals based on number of words
  • Encourage students to take AR tests on all books they read, not just the one or two required for class, by allowing testing in the library
  • Obtain online version in order to provide immediate access to new tests

Fortunately, we don’t have a bad case of ‘readicide’. In fact we have quite a few avid readers. However, we also have a pool of students who have been turned off of reading. Our challenge is to honestly evaluate what we are doing and look at alternatives to decrease the number of students who won’t read a book.






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