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What Kids Are Reading 2016 Reveals New Insights on Student Reading, Strategies for Growth

Annual Report from Renaissance Learning Examines Reading Pathways to College and Career Readiness, Ranks Most Popular Books Read in Each Grade

WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. (November 10, 2015)Renaissance Learning today revealed its annual What Kids Are Reading report, the most comprehensive look at the nation’s K–12 reading diet. On the heels of sobering national reading scores recently released by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the 2016 What Kids Are Reading report, which examines reading practices of 9.8 million students nationwide, offers valuable insight into how student reading maps to college and career readiness and suggests strategies for growth. The study also includes reflections from renowned authors and ranks the top 25 fiction books and top 25 nonfiction articles read at every grade level.

“With changing standards and more rigorous expectations, we need to equip our students with both the passion and skills to read well and become well-read,” said Eric Stickney, Renaissance Learning’s director of educational research. “The findings underscore just how valuable reading is in preparing students to succeed in all stages of their academic and professional careers. What’s more, by examining and implementing effective reading practices, we can move toward closing achievement gaps in education.”

Key findings include:

How Student Reading Compares to the Level Required in College and Career

  • Readership of books within new college and career difficulty bands is inconsistent throughout students’ schooling. The addition of concerted efforts to read nonfiction—such as with informative articles—is a viable option for keeping student reading at recommended levels.
  • Likewise, students in grades 1–12 are selecting books to read at levels far lower than the reading they’ll be responsible for as an adult and in workplace settings. Informational articles can begin to bridge this gap.
  • Very few high schoolers are choosing to read books at levels that reflect their grade level.
  • Books with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) topics are lacking from students’ reading diets.
  • The impact of new standards on expectations for nonfiction reading can be seen nationwide; however, nonfiction reading is still far below where it needs to be, with girls, in particular, trailing their male counterparts.

How Struggling Students Can Regain Their Footing

  • The data show that the return on investing a few extra minutes per day in reading can effect startling change over the long term.
  • Struggling readers who start out the school year in the bottom quartile aren’t stuck there. With dedicated, high quality daily reading practice, they can make great strides in reading and achieve college- and career-readiness benchmarks.
  • The right combination of high-quality reading practice characteristics can make students more likely to meet college- and career-readiness benchmarks.
  • Goal setting can have a powerful impact on students’ reading success, boosting the amount of time and effort they put into their reading practice.

The report also features top books and nonfiction articles read by students in grades 1–12. While the two recent dystopian novels The Hunger Games and Divergent rank among the top ten books in grades seven to 12, classics like To Kill A Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men still make appearances on the list.

Popular authors also offer personal essays on the importance of reading and writing. Guest contributors include Jay Asher (Thirteen Reasons Why), Alyssa Satin Capucilli (Biscuit series), Judith Viorst (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) and Jeannette Walls (The Glass Castle).The Glass Castle).

To download the full report, visit, and visit the full Learnalytics site for the latest interactive content and insights from Renaissance Learning.

About the Study

The most comprehensive annual look into the nation’s K–12 reading diet, What Kids Are Reading is based on data from 9.8 million students in over 31,000 schools who read over 334 million books and nonfiction articles during the 2014–15 school year, using Renaissance Learning’s core reading practice tool, Accelerated Reader 360.

About Renaissance

Renaissance, the leader of K-12 cloud-based assessment and learning analytics, has a presence in more than one-third of U.S. schools and 60 countries around the world. By delivering deep insight into what students know, what they like and how they learn, Renaissance enables educators to deliver highly personalized and timely instruction while driving student growth in reading, writing and math. To learn more, visit:

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