This is a re-blog post originally posted by Holly Fairbrother, and published with kind permission.
The original post can be found here.
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…what we have loved,
Others will love, and we will teach them how
This quote embodies my belief about reading and is at the top of my Books 2014 page, which charts my attempts to read 100 books this year. It also heads my latest essay documenting my research into the impact daily reading can have on overall achievement in middle-school learners.
I have always believed that reading has a significant impact on our understanding and appreciation of the world. As both a life-long passionate reader and an experienced English Language Arts teacher, I have witnessed first-hand the impact that reading has on the ability of learners in terms of comprehension, grammar, empathy, confidence, vocabulary and expression. This has however, only ever been phenomenological through informal observations in the classroom, and in an effort to incorporate sustained silent reading (SSR) as a regular, valid and essential practice, I have embarked upon this research in order to determine the impacts that daily reading has on middle-school learners, not only in terms of English Language Arts, but also across the curriculum.
This paper sets out to synthesize existing data and research on SSR, also referred to as DIRT (Daily Independent Reading Time), DEAR (Drop Everything and Read, Hopkins, 2007) or SQUIRT (Super Quiet Reading Time, Garan & DeVoogd, 2008). It also explores how the incorporation of technology may help engage middle-school readers in daily independent reading. I am not alone in my belief that reading improves academic acheivement. Donalyn Miller, reading teacher and author of The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild, states that “reading has more impact on students’ achievement than any other activity in school” (2009), and Krashen (2004) states that “the students who read the most are the best at every part of school – reading, writing, researching, content-specific knowledge, all of it”. But does research back up what educators have long seen to be true?
The hypothesis is that by developing a reading culture, where texts are chosen autonomously and read using technological devices for fun – not for assessment or as part of the taught curriculum – middle-school learners are placed at an academic advantage in terms of the development of skills that span the curriculum.
Research Analysis: The Impacts of Sustained Silent Reading
Whilst research cited in the National Reading Panel Report (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHHD), 2000) suggests that there are “literally hundreds of correlational studies that find that the best readers read the most and the poor readers read the least”, it also suggests that there is not enough sufficient data “from well-designed studies capable of testing questions of causation” to substantiate claims of the positive influence of SSR. However, Garan & DeVoogd (2008) suggest this hypothesis may in fact be due to a poor choice of methodology coupled with the selective use of data, for example dismissing findings such as that of The National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP), that proved “the more you read the better your vocabulary, your knowledge of the work, your ability to read and so on” (NICHHD, 2000). Overall, it appears that “the body of evidence on SSR reveals an alignment of research with what the professional judgment of many teachers has determined – Sustained Silent Reading benefits students” (Garan & DeVoogd, 2008).
Impact of Attitudes Towards Reading
A six-month quasi-experimental study found that “more time spent reading had a significant effect on achievement compared to a control condition where less time was allocated for independent reading” (Wu & Samuels, 2004). In addition, a twelve month analysis examining the effects of SSR on “cultivating students’ habits and attitudes regarding reading books for leisure both during the SSR period and after school”, found that students who “always or sometimes read books for leisure actively during the SSR period” increased from 76.85 percent, to 87.92 percent, and finally to 88.74 percent (Chua, 2008). The study also revealed that “the percentage of students who agreed or strongly agreed that reading books for leisure was pleasurable and enjoyable increased”, suggesting that SSR had a positive impact on attitudes and habits towards reading for fun. If the practice of SSR can increase the amount and enjoyment of reading, can it also have positive impacts on achievement?
Impact on Reading Scores
In Reading and Writing Habits of Students, a report produced by The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES, 1994), the conclusion was that 9-, 13-, and 17-year-olds who “reported reading for fun at least once a week had higher average reading proficiency scores than students who reported never or hardly ever reading for fun”. Figure 1 (see Appendix) focuses on data for 13 year-olds and displays the reading proficiency scores of those who read for fun either daily, weekly, monthly or never, in 1984, 1994 and 2004. What is clearly evident is that over the course of twenty years, what remains consistent is that the learners who read daily for fun score most highly, whilst those who never read for fun score lowest.
Equally, the scores for those who read on a daily basis are quite a bit higher than those who read only monthly or weekly. In 1984, there is a difference of 9 points, from 255 (monthly) and 255 (weekly), to 264 (daily). This is highest in 1994, increasing by 17 points from 255 (monthly) and 255 (weekly), to 272 for daily reading. In 2004, there was a slight general increase in scores; monthly to 256, weekly to 261, with a drop of 1 mark in the daily score to 271. There was still an increase in scores for those reading daily however: 15 points from monthly scores, and 10 points from weekly scores, leading to the conclusion that daily reading for fun is certainly beneficial in terms of reading scale scores – but what about other areas of the curriculum?
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