"The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) is an international comparative study of the reading literacy of young students. PIRLS studies the reading achievement and reading behaviors and attitudes of fourth-grade students in the United States and students in the equivalent of fourth grade in other participating countries.
PIRLS was first administered in 2001and included 35 countries, and was administered again in 2006 to students in 40 countries. PIRLS 2006 results will be released on November 28, 2007. The next PIRLS is scheduled for 2011. PIRLS is coordinated by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA)."
Have a look at the comparison overview:
Apparently the drop in literacy (but this is just word-literacy) has been blamed on gaming.
The Sun (ever so reliable source) says "computers keep kids away from books." Perhaps...but maybe they're still reading online...
Image from Neil Long.
But, have a look at one of the reading samples the 4th-graders were given:
Image from the The Reading Literacy of U.S. Fourth-Grade Students in an International Context Report.
Would this kind of story encourage attention from today's 4th grade students? Plus, literacy here is defined solely as
"the ability to understand and use those written language forms required by society and/or valued by the individual. Young readers can construct meaning from a variety of texts. They read to learn, to participate in communities of readers in school and everyday life, and for enjoyment. (Mullis et al. 2006)"
And with this definition they believe they can measure (see p.2)
• processes of comprehension;
• purposes of reading; and
• reading behaviors and attitudes.
They do say they're focusing on "print" literacy but I wonder whether this method really does give accurate results for *today's* readers. I suppose I'm wondering about the accuracy especially because in the comparison of literacy levels between countries, the report considers "Canada" but only reports on two provinces, Ontario and Quebec.
I think Cynthia L. Selfe and Gail E. Hawisher's most recent book is in the right direction, tapping into new literacies.