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The Student News Site of Fresno Christian High School

The Feather

The Student News Site of Fresno Christian High School

The Feather

Letter to the Editor

Reluctant readers worry educators

With interactive games like the Wii and access to every song in the universe with a download to an iPod, it seems obvious why teenagers dump their books for new technology.

Some feel these new forms of entertainment distract youth from the time spent broadening their knowledge through books. As a result, the government began the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 which sought to focus on students below grade level literacy.

While intentions for the act appear promising for the future of education, some doubt the law’s effectiveness as adolescent literacy continues to remain an issue.

Jeffrey Wilhelm, professor of English at Boise State University, blames standardized testing as the cause for students’ lack of improvement in the classroom. His experience as an eighth-grade teacher and researcher resulted in the publication of You Gotta BE the Book: Teaching Engaged and Reflective Reading with Adolescents.

Wilhelm divulges his technique of using drama and visualization as a means to engage the class. He believes some teachers pose questions in an effort to develop analytical response and provide the students with an opportunity to voice their opinions.

“Experts don’t take standardized tests,” Wilhelm said. “When they attend to factual information in a text, it’s in the service of seeing patterns, making inferences and creating larger meanings to connect to their lives. Students want to be experts. They want significant challenges.”

According to A. Jonathan Eakle, the director of the Reading Program at Johns Hopkins University and coeditor of Secondary School Literacy: What Research Reveals for Classroom Practice, students must recognize how the story relates to them in order to spark an interest.

“Reluctance is often related to relevance,” Eakle said. “Students don’t see how what they’re being asked to do is related to their lives, in the present or in the future.”

Many students, like senior Stephen Willems, admit indifference in reading corresponds with their inability to connect with the story.

“It’s rare that I actually enjoy the books I read at school, because most of them are boring; they aren’t relevant to my life,” Willems said. “As a guy, I like stories with more action, but if teachers could find a way to make the required reading more entertaining, I would definitely pay more attention. I agree with Eakle.”

English teachers work to promote students’ understanding of an assignment’s relevance through a learning environment geared towards analytical reasoning.

“My hope is students are able to be challenged with ideas so they can be better critical thinkers,” Jon Endicott, associate principal, said. “They need to see how the concepts and themes of the novel relate to their lives. If they can apply what they have learned I have accomplished my job as a teacher.”

Many literary scholars discover a difference in adolescents who search to connect with the story as opposed to those who read for plot. Eakle thinks if educators instruct students in how to collect, arrange and design multimedia texts, the learning process becomes more effective.

If teachers focus their attention on creating a lesson plan designed to help students relate to required reading, researchers like Wilhelm and Eakle predict a drastic improvement in literary performance. However, the reality of the situation complicates the seemingly simple solution.

According to The World Factbook, 1% of the United States popluation is illiterate. While this statistic fails to concern most because of its low number, programs such as America’s Choice recognize the severity of this issue.

The above website claims 80% of the students who drop out of high school do so, because of the inability to read and comprehend the material. A test conducted by the U.S. Department of Education in 2005 also found almost 70% of the country’s eighth-graders could not read at a proficient level.

“The biggest conundrum we face today is getting the government, corporations, foundations and taxpayers to want to make investments in human capital again,” Linda Katz, director of Children’s Literacy Initiative (CLI) said, “and to address today’s core problem as they once did the medical profession: our teachers must be trained to be effective.”

While research on strategies for reading improvement continues, both Wilhelm and Eakle remain optimistic. As teachers progress in their technique and adapt policies on how educators implement change, literary professionals expect students will develop the necessary skills to become competent and successful individuals.

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  • C

    Chantelle BrownMar 12, 2010 at 6:54 am

    To all you freshman who participated in powder puff… I know that you all went out and give it your all! Im so proud to be in your guys class! Great effort!

  • M

    Maddie YeeMar 12, 2010 at 6:54 am

    Powder puff went pretty well today. Although the freshmen came in last, it was good to see our efforts.

    In our first game against the seniors, we held them for a little and made them work for the win. One of our plays actually worked. Amy passed it off to me, and then I followed through by then handing it off to Allie. The seniors were quite confused.

    Overall, I am very happy with the freshmen. We still have three more years….

  • A

    Alexandra FreaMar 12, 2010 at 6:54 am

    I am not sure how well the turn out will be for the freshman. We have a lack of players and experience. I hope that we remember our positions and plays.

    I am glad Maddie an Amy are quarterbacks because they have great throws. I was surprised when I went to practice and our coaches were calm. I thought they would be yelling at us.