The Random Reader

Reading is not Random! Oh, wait. I guess it can be.

reading numbers

Promote reading…with random numbers!

reluctant readers, teens, parents, high school, help, college, books

You have all the answers to this reading quiz.

Please pass it on and help others read.

1. How many new words do your teens need annually for reading vocabulary?

Answer: two to three thousand (Beck, McKeown & Kucan, 2002).

That means by the time your students graduate from High School, they should have learned between eight and 12 thousand new words. Try cramming all those words into one all nighter!

…More coffee please.

random coffee with random reading

Unfortunately, if they do not keep up, it will affect them in high school, college and beyond. Students are not learning the vocabulary they need to understand what they are reading. A study reveled children are successful in reading until they must use reading skills to access information (Hinton, 2005) Note the drop-off illustration above. You might be thinking this does not affect your child because they learn vocabulary in school. Stay tuned!

(Some rights reserved by flicker user Daniel Y.)

2. What is the estimated number of words your teen adds to their vocabulary from teacher assigned lists?

Answer:  four hundred per year (Beck, McKeown & Kucan, 2002).  random reader

Deficit = 1,600! This can explain why so many students do not understand what they are reading and  need help in college. Just look at some college websites and you can see there is a reading problem.

Purdue, Dartmouth or FSU reading center have discovered the need for reading support. It is as if our children are using grammar school reading skills to learn college material.

3. What is the estimated number of times you need to use a word to make it part of your own?

Answer: 20 (more here on that)  – It simply takes a lot of time to learn new words. Though they can do it, this will be frustrating and they have to dedicate time learning vocabulary on top of college vocabulary, along with other new material.

There is a simple solution. Most vocabulary words are learned from context during free reading (Brad Sheppard, Nagy, Hinton). It makes sense that the repetition of the words while reading helps your teen learn the new words. The most significant number to me is found in the next question.

4. What is the percentage of words you need to know to understand text and gain new words from that text?

Answer:  90% (Hirsch, 2003).  If your child does not know 10 percent of the words in a text, they do not understand what they are reading. Further, they are falling behind because they are not gaining new words.

You can see how this creates a

snowball effect as they move along in school.Problems can occur if students lag in vocabulary acquisition including significantly lower confidence and comprehension (Robinson, 2005, p. 97).

( by flicker user riclip)

This is why I spend my free time trying to get teens to be random readers. Give your teen the test. Let them see why reading for fun is significant now, for college and for their future.

Think of how wonderful it would be if the United States had the world’s best reading scores. Currently, US SAT Reading scores are at a four-decade low. In this article, College Board President Gaston Caperton said “When less than half of kids who want to go to college are prepared to do so, that system is failing.”

At the very least speak to your teen about the work load they will face trying to catch up in college. Lack of literacy skills is a primary reason students drop out of high school every day (Biancarosa & Snow, 2004, p. 7). Teens need to practice reading skills with pleasure reading.

Thirst Knowledge My Friends.

I read random


Beck, I.L., McKeown, M.G., & McCaslin, E.S. (1983). All contexts are not created

equal. Elementary School Journal, 83.

Biancarosa, G. & Snow, C.E. (2004). Reading next – a vision for action and research

in middle and high school literacy: A report from Carnegie corporation of New

York. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.

Cuesta College. (2011). Retrieved from

Hirsch, E.D. (2003). Reading comprehension requires knowledge – of words and

the world: Scientific insights into the fourth-grade slump and the nation’s

stagnant comprehension  scores. American Educator, Spring, 2003.

Hinton, K. (2005). Narrowing the gap between readers and books. Voices from

the Middle, 13(1), 15-20.

Nagy, W. E., Herman , P. A., & Anderson, R. C. (1985). Learning words from

context. Reading Research Quarterly, 20(2), 233-253.

Robinson, Richard. (2005). Readings in reading instruction; Its history, theory,

and  development. New York, NY: Pearson Education, Inc.

Sedita, J. (2005). Effective vocabulary instruction. Insights on Learning Disabilities,

2(1), 33- 45.

Sheppard, B. (n.d.). Sheppardsoftware. Retrieved from





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