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 Are Young Adults Thinking : selecting books

What influence do parents have on teens and their reading?

   Everyone knows that teens decrease contact with the family while they are striving to develop their own identity. However, family influence is still very important to your teen. If you look at avid readers, they have an ongoing dialog about books with their family and this sparks interest to read (Strommen & Mates, 2004). You can encourage your teen by reading and talking about anything you enjoy reading not just books. BTW, 55% of young adults books are bought by adults. You might find their books interesting and fun to read.

What if your teen does not choose books

     Of course, you know your teen needs to select books they are interested in because choice is a motivator to reading. However, if they do not choose a book on their own what can you do? You can supply them with book options they might  enjoy from your local library to get them started. The question then is how to get books they want to read. Start with what you know about your teen. On Voya, they have a test about teen culture so you can find out what you know about your teen. This is the link to the august quiz. It is a fun quiz but does not cover all teen interests such as video games. In fact, my teens would fail the quiz. In all fairness, I rated “falling off the balance beam” but I know what the meme “arrow to the knee” means. If you do not know this meme and your child plays video games, you should check it out.

      If you did bad on the test check out the website by Storey and Roope on teen culture with links to information and facts on teens. They organized it by categories like “teens at home” or “teen slang”. There is one link to a fast find guide for teens that your child might have an interest. All of this can give you insight into your young adult’s world, which can aid book selection on topic they are interested. The Young Adult Library Services Association has a simple selection criteria you might want to use when picking books for your reluctant reader. This link is to their 2012 list of books for reluctant young adult readers. For male readers, try the lists by guys read where the genre includes comics and at least one explosion.

      Other reasons teens give for not reading is no time (Strommen & Mates, 2004). You can counter this by selecting books with few pages. For example, Nothing by Janne Teller is an award-winning book with only 227 pages. The “Lazy readers” book club is a search tool for locating books for people who do not have time to read. You can search by page length. Offer your teen audio books to listen to in the car. This has always been a great pastime when on a trip. You can even listen to audio books while doing chores or exercise. Books are great to cure boredom when waiting in lines. I am sure there are many more suggestions that you can think of to help create more time to read.

   One final note, make sure the book is not difficult for your teen. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to read something you do not understand. Why would you bother? A simple test is if there are five words on one page they do not know, then try another book. You might look for books that have high interest with low vocabulary. These are called Hi-Lo books such as ones from this resource. Either way if your YA is not interested in the book then do not make them finish it just try a different book.

Strommen, L., & Mates, B. (2004). Learning to love reading: Interviews with older children and teens. Journal Of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 48(3), 188-200

Photo “enjoy your favorite pieces of literature – even outside.” by Flicker user Solokom CC License Attribution- NonCommericail-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

posted by Random Reader in how to select books 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