Books are Enough

The Power of Free, Self-Selected Reading

Research Study: Reading Rate

Readers are often adjusting reading rate. We slow down and we speed up. We adjust to text. A wide variety of factors influence rate. Something as simple as “being tired” or “really into a book” can affect rate.

What happens when we are faced with high school students who are very slow readers? I  look for this in the first two weeks of school. I am referring to silent reading and not oral. I want to identify students who are using some sort of visual aid to guide their reading. This is often a piece of paper. Sometimes they use their finger. While this might be needed on occasion, when used all the time it slows readers down. The student is reading one word at a time. Remember, we read with our eyes and not hands or mouth. At this age I try to extinguish persistent use of visual guides (and subvocalizing.)

I track students for a few weeks without telling them. I see how many pages they read in  45 minute reading sessions. I get about 10 samples and take an average. I do have to consider that over the long-term, rate will increase due to volume reading. Those using visual guides, though, have a harder time improving rate. If the behavior has not been ended by 9th grade, intervention is needed.

After observing the use of visual guides I will meet with students during reading conferences. I will show them how to use their eyes and adjust them as needed. I tell them when I am reading, my eyes are usually at the end of a sentence when I am saying the first word of the sentence- but this varies. I let them try this for a few days and ask them if they notice anything. All students report they are reading faster and still understanding text.

It is important NOT to tell students, “This might help you read faster.” I don’t tell them why I am asking them to remove the visual guides. I could only use the number of students I had, so I would love to get a bigger population. I am now trying to replicate this in a new five-year study that starts this year.  I am happy there are not more students using visual guides in high school! This should have been handled in middle school.

FIVE YEAR STUDY: 2007-2011

Number of Students: 18

Average Pages Read with Visual Guides:  (10 sessions 45min each)  12

Average Pages Read without Visual Guides: (10 sessions 45min each) 32

What about comprehension? All 18 students ranked in the lowest 25% at the school when they began the study. At the end of the year, all 18 students were out of the lowest 25%. This does not mean removing the visual guides was the reason for improvement but it shows there was no negative result on comprehension.

In order to account for the fact that volume reading can increase rate over a full year, I started the study in September of each year and ended it in December. If I waited all year I would have to consider the influence of volume reading.

The average number of books read by the 18 students in the three previous years was 4. The average number of books read by the end of the study year was 21.

I wanted to share this little study I did. I am also finishing up one on self-selected reading.





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