Does it matter if kids can read?
Seems like a question with an obvious answer. However, it appears that when it comes to fighting reading deficiency in our children, we’re continually using the same solutions with minimal results; kids are slogging through leveled reading programs created by well-meaning adults, with very little input, if any, from the kids themselves. Only directing poor and reluctant readers to their leveled books, with very little focus on the children’s interests, consistently reminds them of their shortcomings.
The growing reading deficiency rates demonstrate that the literacy crisis is far from over. In fact, reading failure continues to be a growing national problem. More than 50 percent of children in affluent homes and 80 percent of children in less affluent homes are not reading proficiently. Reading drops off significantly after age nine.
Motivating young children to read hits extremely close to home for some Texas parents. Nearly three-fourths of Texas students are not proficient readers when they reach fourth grade, according to a recent survey by National KIDS COUNT. As uncovered in our 2013 research report, “Factors affecting reading ability in school age children,” the problem is tied directly to children’s underlying motivation to read, rather than their ability to read.
To combat this education dilemma, we’ve learned that the solution lies where librarians and teachers have always known it to be—deep within the child’s own interests. Our team at Evanced Solutions recognizes that kids are the experts on what they love. When we empower children to engage with those things, they are more intrinsically motivated to discover, ready, and do. Validating their interests when designing learning platforms cannot be ignored. Interests are far more significant than readability, and encourage reading frequency, which in turn, drives proficiency and fights the literacy crisis.
With this in mind, Evanced Solutions – where I work as lead for reading engagement initiatives – has created the world’s first kid-powered interest genome project, Wandoo Planet. This online reader engagement and discovery platform empowers readers to discover and mine their keenest interests – from Lemony Snicket and puppies to go-karting and superheroes.
Powered by an adaptive learning system algorithm, Wandoo Planet provides kids with similar interests a platform to recommend associated content that their peers have already rated highly.
In an effort to reframe the literacy crisis and draw attention to the power of kids’ interests, Evanced Solutions is taking Wandoo Planet on a 20,000-mile Banish Boredom Tour across the country to visit libraries, schools and reading conferences and festivals.
Our interactions with kids suggest we’re onto something—the tour is igniting kids’ passions for reading and doing what they love. As they explore new interests and content in Wandoo Planet, they’ve told us what’s working, and what’s not, what they’d like us to do differently, and what they’d like us to do next.
We’re still at the very start of our journey—and far from solving the literacy crisis.
However, in Texas, we spent numerous days at the McAllen Public Library, Curtis Elementary in Weatherford, Deer Creek Elementary in Crowley, and the Texas Library Association annual conference in San Antonio, the largest state library association in the nation.
The tour has already made it abundantly clear that motivation is the key to developing successful readers—it affects everything for children at school and at home. We look forward to the impact this will have on kids across the country.
*Featured/top image: The Banish Boredom Tour gives children ages 6-14 an opportunity to discover and explore their keenest interests using Wandoo Planet. Courtesy photo.