The Random Reader

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

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





posted by Random Reader in reading numbers and have No Comments

What does that mean?

Name that reader

Joelle Brummitt-Yale wrote about strategies to engage reluctant readers in the website K12Reader. She defines a reluctant reader as anyone not showing an interest in reading. What I found helpful in this post is the tip that your young adult might hide their feelings toward reading with other behaviors such as clowning or misbehaving when you ask them to read.  They might even have a sudden interest in cleaning their room. Brummitt-Yale also points out that adolescent boys are typically the largest number of reluctant readers. For a quick bulleted list about boys and reading, look at Jon Scieszka’s website at Guys and Reading.  Keep in mind that boys tend to read to find out about life. Many fiction stories on feelings do not seem to interest them.

I found a great resource from the California State University Northridge website. This site has a “useful articles” section with the article “Choosing Not to Read: Understanding Why Some Middle Schoolers Just Say No” by Kylene Beers.  In this article, Beers takes what reading researchers say about reading and studies students to come up with five types of reluctant readers. She explains that middle school teachers can even visualize the reluctant readers because they are the ones slumped into chairs and looking bored. This might be something to think about at a parent-teacher conference.

Beers (n.d.) defines an avid reader as one who has positive feeling about readers and sees reading as a way of life.  Closely linked to the “avid” reader is the “dormant” reader whom enjoys reading but does not make time to read. Then there is the uncommitted reader who does not enjoy reading, views reading as knowing words but still has positive feelings about readers. The unmotivated reader also does not enjoy reading but has negative feelings about readers. Last Beers (n.d.) describes the unskilled reader as one who has reading difficulties. Surprisingly this group may not have negative feelings about other readers. The main motivation issue is the “un” readers all view reading as a function and not as entertaining.

What is in a name?

If you are like me, you are wondering, how all this helps. What I like to do is look at my child’s “want to’s” and do not “want to’s”.  Beer (n.d.) listed “want to’s” for the avid and dormant readers as wanting to choose their own books, having someone read a few pages aloud, meeting authors, keeping a reading journal, and wanting to participate in book reading activities.  I saw a small difference with the “un” readers “wants” and the avid reader.  The “un” readers want independence (they are teenagers) but with some support, (they are not motivated and comfortable with reading yet).  Bellow is Beer’s(n.d.) list of wants from the uncommitted and unmotivated reader.

Uncommitted and Unmotivated Readers Wants
      1. Choose their own books from a narrowed choice
      2. Have someone read aloud an entire book
      3. Compare movie to book
      4. Read illustrated books
      5. Do art activities based on books
      6. Read nonfiction material
The “un” readers are not interested in meeting authors, going to book fairs or the library, and would like to have their teeth pulled rather than keep a reading journal. I know that we do not have control over reading activities assigned at school but we can influence and support our child’s pleasure reading. Pleasure reading motivates, improves reading and vocabulary (even if the story is listened too rather than independently read as in audio books) but that is a blog for a different time. In fact, Renee Kirchner points out in her post “Is your middle school student a reluctant reader?”that many lifelong reading habits are formed in middle school. Therefore, pleasure reading can make reading a pleasant pastime and not something forced.  It is good to think of your young adult as a reader. Labels help organize and target motivation but your child is not a label.For the next post, we will discuss how to help your student choose books.  This is important because struggling readers tend to choose books that are too advanced for their skill level because often their intellect exceeds their reading and vocabulary level.We love input: Please fill out the short survey. Your ideas on your reluctant reader.

image: “Books” by flickr user shutterhacks  creative commons attribution 2.0 generic license


posted by Random Reader in Reluctant Reader Defined and have Comments (2)

Welcome Parents!

Welcome to our struggle! Yes we love to read and know what the wonderful world of reading holds for our students. …if they could only see the worlds that await in those paper and digital texts.

posted by Random Reader in Welcome and have No Comments