The decrease of school related reading in compulsory school 2007–2017

Year: 2018

Author: Vinterek, Monika, Winberg, Mikael, Tegmark, Mats, Alatalo, Tarja, Caroline, Liberg

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In this paper we will report some results from a project (funded by the Swedish Research Council) with an aim to develop knowledge of existing reading practices to better understand what kind of support students receive at school to develop reading skills. In this we lean on earlier research that stresses the importance of many hours of diverse reading practice to develop necessary reading skills to be an active part of a democratic society. 
Data were collected 2017 and relate to the findings of a similar study conducted in 2007. The main research questions addressed in this paper are:

To what extent do students in grade 6 and 9 read continuous text, nonfiction as well fiction, as part of their school work?
What differences in the amount of reading between grade 6 and 9, among boys and girls respectively, can be detected?
What can be noticed about changes in students´ reading at school during the last decade?

In the year 2017 data were collected by a questionnaire, distributed to schools with grade 6 and grade 9 in a mid-Swedish region, the same was done in 2007 for all students in grade 5 and 8 in one of Sweden’s largest municipalities.  Students were asked to estimate how many pages of continuous text, fiction and non-fiction, they had read in class during the day of the questionnaire. For the 2017 study we also asked about the amount of text read out of school as some kind of school assignment (e.g. homework). In total 1526 (2007) and 3289 (2017) answers remained after data cleaning.
We found that reading at school has declined substantially the last decade (e.g. 22% had read less than one page/day in 2007, 30% in 2017). An even higher percentage of students don’t read any pages of continuous school texts in grade 9 compared to grade 6, and girls still read more than boys. We also found that the amount of text read as part of the students’ schoolwork out of school (2017) is lower than for text read at school. These patterns are the same for non-fiction as well as for fiction.  
In the next part of the study we are taking a closer look at the actual reading practices in a selection of these classrooms trying to understand the results. There is also a need for more studies of the amount of text read at school.