Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Startling evidence for the power of reading

A review of PISA 2000 testing: Startling evidence for the power of reading (and of course libraries)

Brozo, W., Shiel, G. and Topping, K. 2007. Engagement in reading: Lessons learned from three PISA countries. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy 51 (4): 304-315.

The PISA is a reading test given to 15 year olds in 31 countries, in the language of the country. The mean score is 500. Finland was number one, at 546. USA was 504, in the middle.

Here is the finding of greatest importance to us, in my opinion: Reading engagement can help overcome the effects of poverty. “Engagement in reading” was a stronger predictor of reading performance than SES (socio-economic status, or poverty). The data is in: Kirsh, I., de Jong, J., Lafontaine, D., McQueen, J., Mendelovitz, J and Monseur, C. 2002. Reading for Change: Performance and Engagement across Countries. Results from PISA 2000. Paris: Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development on pages 119 and 120. Here is an example –

SES defined here as parents’ occupational status.
Low SES group with the highest reading engagement scored 540. High SES group with the lowest reading engagement scored 491. The low SES readers did better than the high SES non-readers.
Kirsch et al also report that:
All students who were “highly engaged” in reading did better than the international mean. All students not highly engaged did worse than the international mean.

The Brozo, Shiel and Topping paper gives specific details about the US, Ireland, and the UK. They conclude that “there needs to be an increase in time allocated to personalized reading” (p. 311), especially for those in poverty. There is only one (very brief) mention of the importance of school libraries (p. 314).

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