Reading for fun reaches record low in US amid declining test scores: report

Unsplash/Thought Catalog
Unsplash/Thought Catalog

Amid reports of plummeting test scores, new research finds that the percentage of students who report that they read for fun has reached a record low, according to an assessment released by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). 

The congressionally-mandated NAEP administered a long-term trend (LTT) reading and mathematics assessment to 13-year-old students from October to December throughout the 2022-2023 school year. 

According to the assessment, the average reading scores for 13-year-olds declined by four points and nine points in mathematics compared to NAEP's previous assessment during the 2019-2020 school year. 

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Only 14% of students reported reading for fun almost daily, a decrease of 3% lower than in 2020 and 13% lower than in 2012. The year 2023 recorded the lowest percentage of students who reported that they read for fun almost every day than all previous assessment years. In 1984, 35% of students reported reading for fun almost daily. 

"Fifty-one percent of 13-year-old students scoring at or above the 75th percentile in 2023 reported that they read for fun on their own time at least once a week, whereas 28 percent of 13-year-old students scoring below the 25th percentile reported doing so," the report reads. "The percentage of students who reported reading for fun on their own time once or twice a month was also larger for students at or above the 75th percentile. Conversely, the percentages of students who reported reading less frequently — a few times a year or never or hardly ever — were larger for students performing below the 25th percentile."

Reading scores were lower for both males and females and students eligible and non-eligible for the school lunch program.

"In mathematics, scores declined compared to 2020 for most student groups; for example, scores were lower for Black, Hispanic, and White 13-year-olds, for students attending schools in all regions of the country, for students eligible and not eligible for the NSLP, and for students at all reported levels of parental education," the report reads. 

Female students experienced an 11-point score decrease in mathematics, whereas males saw a 7-point decline, widening the gap between the sexes from 2020. The score gap between white and black students also widened from 35 points in 2020 to 42 points in 2023. 

The decline in scores among middle school students comes shortly after an October 2022 NAEP report that found dramatic reductions in math and reading levels for fourth and eighth graders.

The average reading scores for both grades decreased by three points since 2019, before COVID forced schools to enact remote learning measures. Similarly, the average fourth and eighth-grade math scores declined by five and eight points, respectively. 

In most states, math and reading scores for fourth and eighth-grade students declined between 2019 and 2022. 

The month before, NAEP released another assessment that found historic declines in reading and math scores for 9-year-old students. The average reading scores for 9-year-old students in 2022 declined by five points and seven points in mathematics compared to 2020. 

"This is the largest average score decline in reading since 1990, and the first ever score decline in mathematics," the report reads. 

Scores differed among racial groups, with black students experiencing a 13-point score decrease compared to a 5-point decrease among white students. According to the report, the score gap between the two races went from 25 points in 2020 to 33 points in 2022.

Another NAEP assessment released in May 2023 found that U.S. history and civics test scores declined for eighth-grade students nationwide. Eighth-grade scores for U.S. History went from 263 in 2018 to 258 in 2022, falling by five points. In civics, the students had an average civics score of 150 out of 300 for 2022, a decrease of three points since 2018. 

Only 13% of eighth-grade students were rated proficient in U.S. history, and only 20% were considered proficient in civics. One percent of students were considered advanced in U.S. History, while only 2% were rated advanced in civics. 

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follow her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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