How High School Reading Has Changed Since 1907


By Jason Boog Comment

Renaissance Learning has released its fifth edition of the What Kids Are Reading report. Among the many topics covered in the free report, it compared high school reading across the last century.

Below, we’ve linked to free eBook copies of the most popular books in 1907, 1923 and 1964. The complete report noted “a decline over time in the complexity of required texts for high school students.” Follow this link for an infographic summary of the research. Here’s more from the report:

Although our analysis is restricted to the  period of 1907 to 2012, there is evidence that writing has become less complex over the last several hundred  years. Complexity is impacted in part by average sentence length; books with longer sentences tend to be more  difficult to comprehend than books with shorter sentences … it is worth noting that just because the books students are being assigned to read are less complex than in  prior years, this does not necessarily mean that they cannot read or comprehend books at higher levels, nor can  we assume that assigning more complex texts would necessarily lead to improvements in achievement.

Top High School Reading, 1907-2012 with Links to Free Books 


Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Silas Marner by George Eliot


The Rivals: A Comedy by Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

Sohrab and Rustum by Matthew Arnold



Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Silas Marner by George Eliot

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare



To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

Night by Elie Wiesel