Silent Independent Reading
Fluent readers are likely to read more. Taylor and her colleagues (Taylor et al., 1999a) found that high-achieving primary classes allotted more time for independent reading. For example, in a longitudinal study of 54 children, Juel (1988) estimated that first-grade children with good word-recognition skills were exposed to about twice as many words in basal texts as children with poor word-recognition skills. Biemiller (1977–1978) also reported similar differences in print exposure among readers with different levels of reading ability. The correlation between how much children read and their proficiency in reading led educators to rely on increasing silent reading time as a primary strategy to increase fluency.
The NRP (2000) found no evidence of a causal relationship between silent reading and increased fluency. For example, the NRP examined 14 studies that measured the impact of sustained silent reading (SSR), and similar approaches including USSR (uninterrupted sustained silent reading), DEAR (drop everything and read), and SQUIRT (super quiet reading time). In most cases, these procedures require the provision of approximately 20 minutes per day in which students are allowed to read material silently on their own with no monitoring. In most cases, the students select their own material, and there is no discussion or written assignment tied to this reading. Teachers and other adults in the school setting are to read during this time as well.
Only three studies (Burley, 1980; Davis, 1988; Langford & Allen, 1983) reported any clear reading gains from encouraging students to read independently, and in the third of these studies the gains were so small as to be of questionable educational value. Most of the studies, including the best designed and largest ones (Collins, 1980; Holt & O'Tuel, 1989; Summers & McClelland, 1982), reported no appreciable benefit to reading from such procedures. Holt and O'Tuel (1989) found improvement in vocabulary scores, but these did not translate into better reading comprehension. The most direct test of the effect of silent reading on learning was provided by Carver and Liebert (1995), and they found no clear benefit resulting from 60 hours of additional reading.
The National Reading Panel concluded its report on fluency by indicating that there are still many important questions regarding the development of fluency that need to be answered. One is to explore more carefully how procedures to encourage students to read more could be made to work more effectively in increasing achievement.
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