Time and Reading Performance

Reading is a participation sport!  It can’t be emphasized enough that if we want children to become strong and capable readers, they have to actually READ – plain and simple.  Think about it.  If you wanted to get better at your favorite sport,  how would you do it?  First you would ensure that you had any equipment needed (books) and then you would make sure that you had time to practice (reading).  If you wanted to get really good, you would probably also find someone who was good at this sport to keep you company (friends to talk about books with) and finally, you might also hire a coach (a good reading teacher) to help you improve your abilities.  Researcher Anderson and colleagues reported that students in basal-dominated classrooms spent up to 70% of their reading instructional time completing worksheets. According to the research of Allington and many other reading experts, time actually spent reading is what correlates with higher reading competency.  It seems logical that the more someone practices, the better they become at doing what it is that they have been practicing. Unfortunately, what seems logical is not always what happens in classrooms across the country. The research indicates that students perceived as “low” or struggling readers in many classrooms actually spent LESS time reading than did their better performing peers. What’s that all about?  The greater the need, the more it stands to reason that those with the greatest need should be doing MORE reading – not less. Take the time to assess how much actual reading goes on in your class and find ways to increase it. Remember, reading is a participation sport which gets better with practice.

Struggling Readers – Does Phonics Still Apply?

Reading specialists have long wondered how best to help older students who struggle with reading. Should they be taught to decode by using phonics programs developed for primary children?  We all know that when students have to spend too much mental energy on decoding, that there is none left for comprehension. As a result, it is vital that older struggling readers learn to read more fluently so that they can spend their mental energy on understanding what they are reading rather than decoding the words they see on the page. While phonics programs are vital for young readers, there has been much controversy over whether or not these programs actually are the best way to help older, struggling readers. Researchers believe that adults use patterning extensively when they read. For example, if you know the word “beak” then you can easily identify the pattern words “leak” “teak” and “peak.”  Wylie and Durrell (1970) identified 37 common rime patterns that make up over 500 common words. Helping older students break words into known word parts can also be a helpful strategy for older readers. It is also the most common strategy that adult readers use to decode new words they encounter while reading.