Have Schools Failed To Teach Students How To Read?

“We’re dealing today with a post-literate generation.”

By Hady Mawajdeh & Alain StephensMarch 2, 2016 12:16 pm

When it comes to learning to read, educators agree that the sooner you start the better you’ll be. Honestly, it’s never too early to begin nurturing a relationship with reading.

But what happens when you send your children to school and the education system is less focused on reading comprehension and more focused on whether or not a student can pass a standardized test?

University of Houston professor Robert Zaretsky recently wrote an op-ed for the Houston Chronicle, saying that Texas college students learn to pass tests, but they don’t know how to read books.

“I was struck by the way in which students were flummoxed by novels that were not especially difficult,” Zaretsky says.

He says he’s seen a decline in reading comprehension in his classes over the past 25 years. One of the culprits, he says, is the rise of social media and electronics.

“It’s amazing the amount of time that our students at university now spend on electronic devices,” Zaretsky says. “The screen, by its very nature, is disruptive. It distracts rather than lures the students into the act of reading. And reading, of course, requires attention.”

But the systematic problem, he says, is that we are no longer educating students to read to understand. Because of that, students no longer see the need to read.

“The problem really is that we’re dealing today with a post-literate generation,” Zaretsky says. “They simply don’t see the need to read. And in their vast majority of classes, this kind of reading – the kind of reading that exercises you moral imagination – is simply not required.”

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.