December 8, 2007, 01:42 PM ET
Dropouts and Reading Habits
According to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, for every 100 ninth-graders, 68 graduate on time, and 40 of those go to college. But by the following year, 13 of them have dropped out. Why so many?
It is natural to examine the academic lives of students for answers — the kinds of courses they take, the skill and knowledge deficiencies, the emotional adjustments of freshman year. But we might look at their leisure habits, too, and the most important one is voluntary reading. Statistics from the Department of Education make the correlation between reading for pleasure and academic achievement crystal clear (see this document, pp.50-55). The more kids read on their own — anything, that is, not just classics and books — the better they do in class.
But note what shows up in the American Freshman Survey each year. When the respondents were asked in 2005 how much time in their senior year of high school they spent during a typical year, they answered as follows:
NONE 24.8 percent 5 HOURS 10.1 percent
We can be sure that a fair portion of the one-quarter answering “NONE” falls away during the year. Because they never read a word outside of class, reading in class looks like work, only work, and they don’t want to do it.
Also, those interested in gender imbalances on campus might note a big difference in boys and girls in the NONE range. Women came in at 19 percent, men at 32 percent. The difference between them, 13 points, is a bit shy of the general imbalance in enrollments — (roughly 58 percent female, 42 percent male) — but it no doubt plays a part in the disproportion.