But as several educators explained to me, the advent of accountability laws and policies, starting with No Child Left Behind in 2001, and accompanying high-stakes assessments based on standards, be they Common Core or similar state alternatives, has put enormous pressure on instructors to teach to these tests at the expense of best practices. Jennifer LaGarde, who has more than 20 years of experience as a public-school teacher and librarian, described how one such practice—the class read-aloud—invariably resulted in kids asking her for comparable titles. But read-alouds are now imperiled by the need to make sure that kids have mastered all the standards that await them in evaluation, an even more daunting task since the start of the pandemic. “There’s a whole generation of kids who associate reading with assessment now,” LaGarde said.
I cannot help but wonder if similar trends show in other countries? Mind you, the Danish school system has also gone through changes and a lot of focus on what is measurable. Even my own kids — says I, the voracious reader — have been less voracious than I was. Of course, there is a lot of competition and all, less time. But, also, and joyfully so: both my sons, now in their earlier twenties, are slowly coming around to the pleasure of reading physical books, unplugged. As one of them said: real literature.