Convincing students to read more often and in depth


Unsurprisingly, studies confirm that the better kids are at reading, the better they do in school, since reading encourages vocabulary growth. What is less well known is that reading 15 minutes a day has been shown to be the tipping point between kids who perform well in school and those who don’t.

Unfortunately, 49 percent of students in the United States don’t do 15 minutes of reading a day. And kids should do more in-depth reading, at the highest lexile level they can handle. So what to do?

Gene Kerns, Ed.D

This and more was discussed in an webinar entitled “What Kids Are Reading (and Not Reading) in 2019: New Insights for Education Leaders” presented by Gene Kerns, Ed.D., chief academic officer at and Allistair Van Moere, Ph.D., chief product officer at

Alistair van Moere, Ph.D

Kerns and Van Moere recommended several strategies to encourage reading.

Schedule daily time for reading

Help your students get 15 minutes of reading each day, at each grade level. This should be time actually dedicated to reading, not going to and from the library or socializing.

Provide access to a wide variety of texts

Kerns and Van Moere especially recommended 1) books that are widely read, 2) nonfiction material, and 3) audio books.

To show which books are read most often, Renaissance publishes an annual study of K-12 reading habits. The 2019 version, which lists the top 20 books and top 10 digital reads for each grade, can be found at this link:

Non-fiction reading is important because it gives background knowledge which enhances other reading. For example, if you know who Hercules is, you can understand what “Herculean task” means. To find out what topics should know about for each grade, see, which also offers free resources. The Renaissance study recommends 10 nonfiction books for each grade.

In addition, teachers attending the webinar recommended the “Who Was” series for upper elementary students and high interest remedial reading, and the “All About” series for middle school students, though these are harder to find.

Audio books which display text as it is spoken are especially helpful for early and struggling readers and ELL students, because the reader can hear the word while reading it. Nonvisual audio books have value too. An excerpt of a well-written book at a higher lexile level could entice students to read more on their own. For this reason, Kerns encouraged teachers to read aloud to their students, even in high school.

Set expectations

Students tend to gravitate toward books with lower reading levels, so as you can, steer them toward higher lexile-level books, gradually if need be. If you need to get buy-in, an upcoming study can help. It lists the lexile level needed for various professions and the average salary for each. Look for it on starting in April 2019.

Inspect what you expect

Once the students are sitting down with their books, do some walk-bys to make sure they are actually reading.

To find out more, follow Gene Kerns at @RenLearnUS and Alistair Van Moere at @MetaMetrics_Inc. You can email them at and


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