Students enjoy books below their reading level

The recent release of author Rick Riordan’s latest mythology-fiction novel The Blood of Olympus on Oct. 7 has sent teenagers in swarms to their local bookstores and libraries to pick up their own copy to read. Over three million copies were printed in the first printing alone. Interestingly enough, Riordan’s mythology series started in 2005, meaning that current high school students began reading these books when they were still young enough to be counting on their fingers.

A recent study conducted by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, an organization that collects school-related data from test scores, found that 38 percent of 12th-graders in the nation read at or below their average reading level. Why do so many people still follow these book series so far below their higher reading level?

Some students cite their reason as the ease at which they can read a low-level book. A book below one’s current reading level is easy for them to digest, comprehend and, therefore, enjoy. John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet both craft intricate love stories, but teenagers flock to the former due to its comprehensive and understandable writing.

“[The Fault in Our Stars] is definitely easier to understand,” freshman Elektra Katsonis said, despite her preference for higher-level reading.

A far more interesting reason for this occurrence has to do with emotional attachment that students may have for a particular book or book series. In recent years, most books have been part of some overarching trilogy, such as the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, or quartet, such as the Giver series by Lois Lowry, and so on. Many students began these series in elementary school and have grown up with them.

Freshman Marget Warrent started reading Rick Riordan’s mythology novels in sixth grade and continues to follow the series to this day.

“I think it’s a good story and it just takes Rick Riordan so long to write the next book that you are already engaged in the series by the time you’re too old to read them,” Warren said. “You’re kind of invested in finishing the series.”

This is the case for many students who become emotionally invested in the story and its characters over an expanded span of time. They continue to return to these series even when their reading level grows beyond them due to the feelings of nostalgia, familiarity, and safety they evoke.