Tweens are a whole new group of readers according to those trying to market books and authors in their direction. We are talking here about middle graders: not still children, not yet teenagers, but in-between the two categories. If we had to attach a “years” label on them, it might be eight to twelve year olds. These years also coincide with first phones and a great deal of video distractions.

Here in Texas, we rank “38th nationally in reading test scores for 4th graders and in HISD (Houston Independent School District) only 23 percent of 4th graders tested at or above grade level proficiency in 2015.” ( Bobbie Samuels, retired educator in The Houston Chronicle, “Houston Tweens Should Read for Fun,”) Embarrassing to say the least! I agree with the article, for as she states, “The importance of the love of reading–separate and apart from school–cannot be overestimated.” I found that statement true in the hundreds of 6th-8th graders I taught from 1968-1984 in the Alvin Independent School District. A student who reads separate and apart from what is assigned in junior high is a good student in most subjects in high school. A non-reader or even a struggling one is a poor student in almost everything.  Good readers develop…”growth in vocabulary, reading comprehension, verbal fluency, and increased general information.” (Berniece E. Cullinan of New York University as quoted in Samuels)

Samuels points out that The National Endowment for the Arts, in its article, “To Read or Not to Read, ” states there is a correlation between the amount of time students spend reading for pleasure and scores on national and standardized tests in both reading comprehension and writing. Samuels continues to describe The British Cohort Study, which followed the lives of 17,000 individuals over decades, which “has found that reading for pleasure outside of school has a significant impact on young people’s educational attainment and social mobility…” The study also found that “recreational reading has more than triple the impact on student achievement than their parents’ level of education, previously thought to be a leading factor in student success.”

What all this tells us is that if we wait until junior high or middle school to “hook” students on reading for pleasure, it may be too late.  Further still, I have experienced many students who loved reading, and learning in general, only to be “turned off” in later elementary grades or middle school/junior high, somewhat because of the following: teaching to the test,  no time for free reading,  teachers’ insistence that a student read at grade level whether he/she is “up to it” or not,  listing unrelated vocabulary words to be memorized when they will only be “learned for the test, never used after that–all horror stories heard from students in high school, junior college, and the university levels.

In my fifty years of teaching from grades four through graduate students at university, I have almost “seen and heard it all.” Reading for pleasure and developing a love of reading are necessary at every level. From what I have seen, our K-4 teachers often instill these qualities, only to have them “stomped on” later. This is an outrage, one I probably have been responsible for committing myself. I challenge myself and all teachers everywhere to love books, words, reading with their whole hearts and share these feelings with their students.


Author: Rae Longest

This year (2019) finds me with 50 plus years of teaching "under my belt." I have taught all levels from pre-K "(library lady" or "book lady"--volunteer) to juniors, seniors, and graduate students enrolled in my Advanced Writing class at the university where I have just completed 30 years. My first paying teaching job was junior high, and I spent 13 years with ages 12-13, the "difficult years." I had some of the "funnest" experiences with this age group. When I was no longer the "young, fun teacher," I taught in an elementary school setting before sixth graders went on to junior high, teaching language arts blocs, an assignment that was a "dream-fit" for me. After completing graduate school in my 40s, I went on to community college, then university teaching. Just as teaching is "in my blood," so is a passion for reading, writing, libraries, and everything bookish. This blog will be open to anyone who loves books, promotes literacy and wants to "come out and play."

6 thoughts on “LITERACY AND TWEENS”

  1. What a very intelligent, insightful and approachable article. Thank you for sharing. I think it’s hard to capture attention but when you do, it can be powerful. Parenting is key. Teachers are key. You are one of the best ones, I’m confident.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. One of my tricks I used with my girls I always shared with my classroom parents. If I wanted the girls to be asleep by 8:30 I told them they had to get in bed by 8:00. They could read in bed for the thirty minutes until 8:30. I would help with a word from another room if they could not sound it out. There was no water or bathroom just in bed and reading. They thought they were getting longer to stay up and enjoyed their reading time. By the time the thirty minutes were up they were calm and ready to sleep. Both amazed me with their vocabulary.

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

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