Computers blamed as reading standards slump

The Independent
The Independent reports that British children have plummeted in an international league table of reading skills. Middle-class parents have been blamed for failing to encourage a love of books over computer games. Primary-school children in England fell from third to 15th in the study of 45 countries, recording the third highest drop behind Romania and Morocco over the past five years. Scotland fell 12 places compared to 2001, slumping to 26th. Russia topped the league table, followed by Hong Kong and Singapore while South Africa came bottom.

The Scottish Governemt put a positive spin on the PIRLS report:

Report on reading literacy
The Scottish Government reports that Scotland’s reading literacy is still significantly above the international average according to The Progress In Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) which is run by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement.

However, the country’s ranking has slipped slightly since the previous report and presents an inherited challenge for the new Scottish Government according to Minister for Schools and Skills Maureen Watt. Ms Watt said that she was pleased to see that the study of nine and ten year-olds showed Scotland’s most able pupils ranked amongst the highest achievers in the international study.

3 thoughts on “Computers blamed as reading standards slump

  1. Actually it was I who posted – Hilery. Sorry, should have signed.

    I find it interesting that many writers (I haunt the Book Festival each summer) describe childhood holidays as long stretches of boundless time. Sometimes there was little to do but read to stem the boredom. And, of course, to be a writer you must read and read and read.
    While I am a fan of technology’s potential to enhance learning, I also acknowledge that most children today have such ready access to constant entertainment that reading can become less intrinsically appealing than it was for earlier generations.
    Reading demands more. Participating in (some) computer games is an active process but much of the entertainment available requires passive attention. Satisfying reading is always engaging as the reader is constantly interrogating the text, the author, herself and others for meaning, making it her own.
    I see it in my own kids who stopped reading for their entire adolescence – and in myself. The attraction of slumping in front of a dvd on a Friday night is great even for a committed reader such as myself. (Or is that just me?)
    However, my kids (one of whom has a huge deal for his first novel) are now passionate readers. We ‘kept the faith’ – the house was full of stories, we went to the theatre, we read to them until they were far too big to sit on our knees, we listened to tapes, etc.
    I try to encourage parents of ‘reluctant’ readers to bathe their children in narrative, to analyse story lines in soaps, to listen attentively to ‘taped’ (MP3’d?) tales, to play with language. The hope is that eventually young people will realise that ‘a novel is a mirror walking along a road’. Or at the least, recognise that reading is a valuable skill.
    As to your question: why reading standards have declined in Britain compared with other developed nations with, presumably similar access to technology is a mystery to me.

  2. I think it’s a bit like saying that all reading is good, and all using of computers or playing of video games is bad. It’s a lot more complex than that and, yes, as educators we have good reason to spend some time working out the complexities.

    We see huge gains in reading and writing to be had from using computer games with some critical thinking, some of which is presented on the LTS Consolarium website:

    It’s not about the technology at all; it’s about the teach. How do we exploit ALL the resources we have to make children read better, whether they are reading a book or reading a blog or reading a computer game?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.