'Falling Literacy Skills and Digital Distraction'
Jennifer Pollock | Deputy Curriculum | 15 November 2019
The Grattan Institute released research this week which indicated that there is a hidden problem with reading in Australian schools. Ten years’ worth of NAPLAN data show improvements in Years 3, 5 and 9. However, reading progress has slowed dramatically between Years 5 and 7. (Goss.P. 2019)
That same evening, the Four Corners program on the ABC on 11 November investigated the growing problem being faced by our teachers and students of digital distraction. The concern follows the release of not only the research based on NAPLAN, but also recent OECD data which indicates that the average Australian student is working about 12 months below where they were a decade earlier and that Australian student literacy skills on PISA testing has fallen to 20th in comparison to other OECD countries. Concerns have been raised that technology is impacting the learning of literacy skills in today’s school children who are the first generation of “digi kids”- those raised with digital devices from their earliest years.
Interestingly, the reading slowdown cannot just be blamed on the transition from Primary to Secondary school, because numeracy progress between the years has improved. It also appears that the downward trend in reading is strongest for the most advantaged students, and is occurring across each Australian State and Territory, with students from English-speaking backgrounds being affected more than those who don’t speak English at home.
Recommendations are that teachers and parents of upper primary and junior secondary students should focus on extending reading capabilities for all children. (Goss, P. 2019). A focus on reading will also improve student writing skills. Research indicates that whenever students engage with a text as a reader, they undertake a writing lesson: how to spell, punctuate, use proper grammar, structure a sentence or paragraph, and organise a text. They also learn the different purposes of writing and the different formats for the varied purposes (Duke et al., 2013; Culham, 2014; 2012).
Culham, R. (2014). The writing thief: Using mentor texts to teach the craft of writing. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Culham, R. (2011). “Reading with a writer’s eye.” In T. Rasinski’s Rebuilding the foundation: Effective reading instruction for 21st century literacy. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.
Duke, N., Caughian, S., Juzwik, M., & Martin, N. (2013). Reading and writing genre with purpose in K-8 classrooms. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.