What Are Kids Reading? Books like 'Hunger Games,' but Classics, Too

By Khadaroo, Stacy Teicher | The Christian Science Monitor, May 8, 2014 | Go to article overview

What Are Kids Reading? Books like 'Hunger Games,' but Classics, Too


Khadaroo, Stacy Teicher, The Christian Science Monitor


What do green eggs, stick figures navigating the hazards of middle school, and post-apocalyptic teen battles have in common? They're all to be found in the books most read by American children and teens.

The reading habits of 9.8 million students in Grades 1 to 12 are detailed in the new "What Kids Are Reading" report by Renaissance Learning in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., which tracks students in 31,000 schools across the United States.

The annual report started five years ago "to encourage parents, teachers, librarians to find books that kids will enjoy ... and to encourage as much reading practice as possible," says Eric Stickney, Renaissance's director of educational research. "The amount of reading kids do is very predictive of how well they do on tests and how much they grow [academically]." [Editor's note: The original version of this story attributed the quotes in this paragraph, as well as one later in the story, to the wrong individual.]

Reading is tracked through Renaissance's Accelerated Reader program, which enables students to take simple quizzes that show whether they actually read and understood a book. Quizzes are available for about 160,000 books, including most books for children and teens that can be found in schools and public libraries. It tracks not only assigned reading, but also many books that students pick up on their own time.

Out of 318 million books read in 2012-13, a select few rose to the top of the pop charts:

- "Green Eggs and Ham" by Dr. Seuss is No. 1 for first-graders, and it stays on the Top 20 list for second- and third-graders.

- Books in the "Biscuit" series by Alyssa Satin Capucilli are wildly popular in the early grades.

- Seven of the top nine slots in Grades 3, 4, 5, and 6 go to the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series by Jeff Kinney.

- For Grades 7 to 10, "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins takes the top slot, with follow-ups "Catching Fire" and "Mockingjay" also in the Top 10.

- Among high-schoolers, some classics still manage to cling to Top 10 spots, such as "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee, "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck, "The Crucible" by Arthur Miller (No. 1 for Grade 11), "The Great Gatsby" by F. …

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