Monday, December 16, 2013

Are readers nerds?


ARE READERS NERDS?

Adrienne Schatz, Amy Panko,  Kim Pierce, and Stephen Krashen
                             Reading Improvement 47 (3): 151-153, 2010


Some people think that readers are nerds, "book-worms" who don't get out much, don't do much, and are simply boring, dull people.  The research, however, does not agree with this characterizaton. In fact, the results of a number of studies of adult readers show that readers are "active and social" (Bradshaw and Nichols, 2004).

Table 1 presents data originally published in1982, from Zill and Wingate (1990), comparing literature readers (those who reported reading "any creative writings, such as stories, poems, plays and the like" for the last 12 months), those who read any kind of a book or magazine, and those who reporting no reading.  The results are remarkably consistent, with readers reporting being more active in all categories.

Table 1: Leisure Activities of Literature Readers, Non-Literature Readers, and Non-Readers (1982); adults 18 and older
LEISURE ACTIVITIES
literature readers
readers, not of literature
non-readers
Amusements



Play card, board games
77%
62%
27%
Attend movies
75%
59%
25%
Visit amusement park
57%
49%
19%
Attend sports events
59%
43%
17%
Exercise, Sports



jog, exercise
65%
43%
18%
play sports
48%
36%
14%
camping, hiking
43%
34%
14%
Home-based activities



Repari home, car
66%
60%
28%
Gardening
69%
53%
34%
Gourmet cooking
38%
22%
8%
Collect stamps, coins
20%
10%
3%
Charitable work



Volunteer, charty work
36%
21%
9%
Cultural attendance



Visit historic sites
50%
28%
8%
Go to zoo
41%
25%
11%
Visit museums
32%
15%
4%
Art  & Crafts



Weaving, needlework
42%
29%
18%
Pottery, ceramics
17%
9%
3%
Photography, video
14%
6%
2%
Painting, drawing, sculpture
14%
6%
2%
From:  Zill and Winglee, table 2, page 15.


We cannot, however, conclude that reading is directly associated with being active and social. As Zill and Wingate point out, the amount of leisure reading done is also closely associated with education and affluence (for confirming data, see Bradshaw and Nichols, 2004). It may be the case that those who are more affluent have more time and money to engage in these activities.  (This is probably not the case for visiting museums. Bradshaw and Nichols (2004) present a multiple regression analysis showing a relationship between reading and visiting art museums and attending performing arts events, even when income and education were statistically controlled.)

To control for education, income and other related variables, we approached the question in a different way: The subjects in our study came from one social class, children in schools with high levels of poverty (90% or more free or reduced price lunch). All children were in grades four and five in four different schools in Austin, Texas. 

We present here the results of only one item from a longer questionnaire we asked the children to fill out. We asked the children about people they knew who read a lot, whether they were "not interesting and fun," "kind of interesting and fun," or "very interesting and fun."  


Table 2: Responses to: People I know who read are interesting and fun: grade four
school
n
very
kind of
not
1
44
68%
25%
7%
2
101
62%
32%
6%
3
43
69%
29%
2%
4
48
74%
26%
0%

Table 3: Responses to: People I know who read are interesting and fun: grade five
school
n
very
kind of
not
1
43
53%
44%
2%
2
99
62%
32%
6%
3
49
67%
27%
6%
4
51
68%
32%
0%


As presented in tables 2 and 3, the results are clear and consistent. Very few children felt that readers were not interesting and fun, and about two-thirds felt they were very interesting and fun. The percentages are nearly the same in all four schools and in both grades.

Conclusion

Our question was somewhat vague.  We did not indicate to the children whether "people I know" referred to children or adults or both. Nevertheless, the results suggest that the results of previous findings are not simply an artifact of income and affluence. Attitudes may change as children get older, but our data suggests that fourth and fifth graders do not think that readers are nerds.



REFERENCES

Bradshaw, T. and Nichols, B. 2004. Reading At risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America.  Washington DC: National Endowment for the Arts Research Division Report #46
Zill, N. and Winglee, M.  1990. Who Reads Literature? Cabin John, MD: Seven Locks Press.


Adrienne Schatz, Amy Panko, Kim Pierce are on the staff of Book Trust, Fort Collins, Colorado
Stephen Krashen is Professor Emeritus, University of Southern California


4 comments:

  1. What do you think of WIDA's dictate for ESL teachers to teach the "language of content" rather than content concepts as a viable way to teach language skills?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Have you been involved in or seen any reserach or studies of whether the use of tablets given to learners increases their participation extensive reading for pleasure?

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  3. Tablets may increase participation via motivation, as many studies show that technology integration leads to increased motivation. (I don't have the names of those studies at the moment.) However, whether that motivation actually leads to more reading and whether the same reading processes are going on with tablet reading as opposed to book reading are different questions entirely.

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