One of the most common questions we receive at PLD is ‘Should students focus on a new book each day, or should students re-read the same book several times?’ This is a great question and one where we will reference the research base to guide our response. Throughout this blog, we will explore what is the evidence-based practice for reading fluency in a Foundation to Year 2 setting.
Firstly, what is reading fluency?
Reading fluency is the ability to read with speed, accuracy, and expression. The average rates for reading age-appropriate material with few or no errors (Konza, 2011):
- By the end of Year 1 – 60 words/min
- By the end of Year 2 – 90/100 words/min
- In Year 3, 4, 5 & 6 – 110-120 words/min (with less than 3 errors and with the material getting progressively harder)
What influences a student’s rate of reading fluency?
The research tells us that reading comprehension and reading fluency are intricately linked as both are vital foundational building blocks of a skilled reader. Reading fluency is interconnected with word reading (or word recognition) and also to language comprehension. For students to read at an appropriate rate and with expression, research suggests that reading fluency relies on the ability to decode and comprehend at the same time. On the other hand, if students are not fluent readers, they need to use significant cognitive resources to decode, which leaves less cognitive resources for comprehension. Reduced skills in either area typically impact reading fluency.
What is repeated reading and is it the most effective approach to improving reading fluency?
For many years, repeated reading (RR) has been a widely adopted method for facilitating reading fluency. RR requires a student to read the same passage multiple times until an appropriate level of fluency is reached. From its meta analysis, The National Reading Panel (2000) reported that guided repeated oral reading is a valuable fluency enhancing activity. The report stated “repeated reading…[which] have students reading passages orally multiple times while receiving guidance or feedback from peers, parents or teachers are effective…” (Page 3-20). This report concluded that RR is likely to improve reading accuracy, reading fluency and reading comprehension. RR is particularly effective in the lower primary years and for struggling readers into the high school years.
However, more recent research is suggesting that RR may not be the only approach to improve reading fluency. Continuous reading (CR) also called wide reading, requires a student to read continuously for a specified time, however, each session utilises a different passage or reading book. When these two approaches are compared, RR and CR were found to have no real difference in terms of outcomes for students (e.g. Hempenstall, K. 2014). Current research suggests, reading a text non repetitively has the same positive effect on comprehension and fluency as RR. It is the quantity of targeted reading practice that seems to be key.
“The act of simply reading connected text may be the mechanism that underlies fluency growth, and not repeatedly reading the connected text.” (Hammerschmidt-Snidarich et al, 2018, Page 645)
Since there is little difference between the outcomes using RR or CR, it is worth considering the potential benefits and drawbacks of each method.
When looking at this comparison between RR and CR, several considerations can be drawn. These include:
- RR has a role to play in the very early stages of literacy acquisition, as with each additional reading the student relies less on decoding and can practice reading with greater fluency at a whole word level.
- CR is reported to be more natural, motivating and enjoyable for students while exposing them to a wider range of vocabulary.
- CR supports the development of orthographic mapping. When a student re-reads a passage they tend to memorise words and rely on their memory without always attending to the words. However, when each reading session is a new text, students are forced to pay attention to the structure of words and cannot rely on memory. This develops a habit of attention to the phonemic and letter patterns of words which is critical to the development of orthographic mapping skills. As David Kilpatrick (2016) points out, without skilled orthographic mapping, exposure and repetition do not improve a student’s ability to retain new words in any substantial way. [A blog on orthographic mapping is coming soon].
- In our experience at PLD, RR does not appeal to many students. A typically encountered comment being “I have already read that book!.” PLD’s Phonic Dictation series aims to counteract this by adding a timed aspect to the readings. In our experience, we have found that it is motivating for students to observe that their re-readings become more accurate and fluent. Below is an example from Phonic Dictation – Stage 1.
Implications for Schools…
The key factor in improving reading fluency is the amount of reading a student does. This relates to both the amount of time students spend reading and the amount of text they read. Therefore, for effective fluency instruction, educators need to provide opportunities for:
- regular practice
- reading aloud to an adult
- receiving corrective feedback on errors made
- reading an appropriate type of an evidenced-based reading book
What are evidenced-based reading books?
In the early literacy phase, texts should be brief (100-200 words) and at an age-appropriate level that allows for approximately 95% correct reading. Reading books should initially be decodable which support the students emerging phonic knowledge and as skill develops students can be exposed to a range of text at appropriate reading levels.
But, what can we do if my school has limited decodable reading books?
If your school has limited decodable reading books and hence mostly whole language non-evidence based readers, the precious and limited decodable books can still be sent home. The decodable readers will need to be read and re-read by students 3-4 times.
For schools with adequate stocks of decodable junior primary reading books, CR is likely to be the more suitable option, provided that the reading material is appropriately selected to match the students phonic and decoding ability. At PLD we recommend the presentation of the following downloadable assessments to determine the type of reading material your students require.
Is it important to give student feedback as they read?
When junior primary students read aloud, they must receive feedback on any errors they make to ensure learning is maximised. Feedback has been identified in the research as critical to the development of reading fluency. For example, The National Reading Panel (2000) found repeated reading with feedback was superior to repeated reading alone. If a student is making too many mistakes, the reading material may be too hard. The type of feedback is also important with many of the traditional approaches not backed by research. For more information on providing feedback that supports the development of strong orthographic mapping and reading skill, see our blog ‘Providing Feedback to Support the Development of Reading’, coming soon.
Let’s not forget about the importance of oral language comprehension.
Oral comprehension skills merit instruction as they will improve both reading fluency and reading comprehension. PLD recommends that in addition to sending home reading books, students are also provided with a quality children’s picture book for parents to read to their child each night and ask targeted questions. Reading aloud to the child and asking appropriate questions is a powerful activity in supporting oral comprehension skills and vocabulary development. PLD’s Comprehension Questions range provides speech pathology scripted question cards matching a range of common picture books.
We hope you enjoyed this blog. At PLD we are always available to help you achieve the best possible literacy outcomes for your students. If you have any questions about this blog or anything else we do here at PLD get in touch with us through our chat icon in the bottom right of the screen or to [email protected].
Keep an eye out for our upcoming blogs on strong orthographic mapping and providing feedback when hearing a child read. Both are coming soon!
- Hempenstall, K. (2014). What works? Evidence-based practice in education is complex. Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties, 19(2), 113-127.
- Hammerschmidt-Snidarich, S. M., Maki, K. E. & Adams, S. R. (2018). Evaluating the effects of repeated reading and continuous reading using a standardized dosage of words read. Psychol Schs, 56, Pages 635-651.
- Kilpatrick, D. A. (2016). Equipped for Reading Success. Casey & Kirsch Publishers, New York.
- Carver, R. P. (1990). Reading rate: A review of research and theory. Academic Press.
- The US National Reading Panel: Teaching Children to Read (2000)