Advertisement
  1. Florida

Hillsborough students say their love for reading waned over time. ‘I’d rather go outside.’

Fond early memories of green eggs and ham, and hungry caterpillars, gave way to drudgery in school.
From left, Caleb Asher, Mckenzie Semler, Jordan McClellan, Jaylen Wharton and PJ Knight take notes in Jeannette Teeden's classroom at Durant High School in Plant City on March 15.  [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
From left, Caleb Asher, Mckenzie Semler, Jordan McClellan, Jaylen Wharton and PJ Knight take notes in Jeannette Teeden's classroom at Durant High School in Plant City on March 15. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Published Apr. 17, 2019
Updated Apr. 17, 2019

As part of its special report on reading in Hillsborough County schools, the Tampa Bay Times surveyed more than 70 students at four middle and high schools to describe their first memories of reading and how they feel about reading now. In addition, a group at Durant High School participated in interviews on the subject.

While it is often impossible to remember learning how to read, most of the students had happy memories of their early experiences with books.

They were proud the first time they could write their names. They enjoyed story time in kindergarten. They spoke fondly of Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. They ate green eggs and ham at school after reading the Dr. Seuss book by the same name.

“When we were younger, it was a lot easier to just pick up a book and read,” said Angel Gonzalez of Durant. “In second grade my teacher took us all to the library and we went to the book fair and she told us to go get something that we like, so I got a basketball book because that’s my hobby, basketball, and the book was just amazing. I read that thing like 24 times.”

Gonzalez, who is now in a reading class to complete his requirements for a high school diploma, said his study habits deteriorated when he reached middle and high school. “I was just following people,” he said. “I took the wrong route, and I just gave up on school.”

Some of the Durant students said reading became more difficult in the later years of elementary school, and as they entered middle school. They were given articles that did not hold their interest; and tests that filled them with stress.

“The books got harder and they wanted us to read higher level stuff,” said Chase Lingo.

About half the high school-aged students said they read when reading is assigned to them at school. Outside of those assignments, they read texts, emails and captions on anime cartoons.

Those who were assigned extra reading classes to improve their skills described the need to pass tests so they would not have to take reading any more.

Some complained about eye strain when they are asked to read on computers or other digital devices.

“I’m not going to lie,” said student Markeirionna McDuffy. “Reading, it makes me sleepy. I’ll sit at the computer and I’ll read it and I’ll answer some of the questions. But after a few minutes, I’ll be sleepy and I won’t want to read."

Others said the frequent testing diminishes students’ enjoyment of reading.

“I see the tests are getting harder and harder and it’s harder to get high scores, so a lot of people are getting disappointed,” said Elian Ramirez. “They give up too easily. It’s like a way to stop reading. So it’s just on school sometimes, because it’s just too much pressure and knowing you’re not doing so good, you give up.”

Senior Felicia Mitchell became so discouraged after years of not quite passing her reading tests that she began to believe she was not cut out for reading.

“It just made me feel like I didn’t fit in with academic learning,” said Mitchell, an accomplished bowler who played soccer and basketball as well. “I thought, some people are more athletic than academic, and vice versa.”

As for reading, she said, “I only did it if it was necessary in a class to do. I didn’t complain about it, but I did it.”

Mitchell needed to complete the reading requirements for her high school diploma so she could take advantage of a bowling scholarship to college. She got the score she needed in October on the SAT, which can be substituted for the state’s reading test. This August, she plans to attend the University of Northwestern Ohio.

Reading is still not something she would do for pleasure, she said. “I’d rather go outside.”

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

  1. A Shoot Straight employee conducts background checks and others finish sales at the Florida Gun Show in Tampa.
  2. Folding of the American flag for slain Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Joseph Bullock at Sarasota National Cemetery on Thursday. Trooper Bullock was shot and killed in the line of duty last week when he stopped to help a motorist.
  3. This June 13, 2016 file photo shows Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents in Florida. On Friday, the FBI arrested U.S. federal narcotics agent Jose Irizarry and his wife, Nathalia Gomez Irizarry, at their residence in Puerto Rico, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the arrest. He has been charged with conspiring to launder money with the very same Colombian drug cartels he was supposed to be fighting. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP, File)
  4. Localtopia is St. Pete's largest “Community Celebration of All Things Local,” showcasing over 200 independent businesses and community organizations.
  5. The Tallahassee headquarter of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
  6. ALLIE GOULDING  |   TimesGuests walk down Main Street with Cinderella's Castle in the background at Magic Kingdom on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 at Disney World in Orlando.
  7. OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times
  8. Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva, R- Miami Lakes and Florida Senate President Bill Galvano, R- Bradenton, talk during a joint session of the Florida Legislature, Tuesday, January 14, 2020, in Tallahassee.
  9. Debbie and her husband Michael, of Parkersburg, West Virginia, fish from the Dunedin Causeway Thursday. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission extended the period of catch and release for several species of fish along the west coast of Florida.
  10. Jonathan W. Connors, 32, told a deputy he was “high as f---” after he was pulled over in North Redington Beach, arrest reports state. He faces multiple charges, including his fourth DUI.
  11. It's not a bad time to be looking for a job. [Scott Keeler, Times]
  12. A rare rainbow snake was spotted recently in the Ocala National Forest.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement