The influential 2000 National Reading Panel report Teaching Children to Read examined 14 experimental studies that sought to determine whether encouraging reading had an impact on improving reading achievement. Following their analysis, the panel concluded that the collective results did not provide clear evidence that encouraging students to read more actually led to improved reading achievement. Of the few studies that did find gains in student reading, "the gains were so small as to be of questionable educational value." (p. 3-26). In short, the panel concluded that the research has yet to prove that sustained silent reading efforts lead to improved reading achievement. In addition, the panel suggested that their findings didn't mean that encouraging students to read more could not be made to work, rather that the way it has been done (and studied) in the past has failed to produce changes in reading achievement.
Revisiting Silent Reading (Hiebert & Reutzel, 2010) encourages us to rethink silent reading, to consider some advice about it, and to think about how to make it work in your classroom. Chapter 8 provides teachers with information about four conditions that improve the practice of silent reading in classrooms. These include: Student self-selection of reading materials: Teachers should guide students to choose good texts to read during silent reading time. The books should be of interest, should draw from a variety of genre and topics, and should be at an appropriate level — not too easy, not too hard. This is particularly important for struggling readers who often select books they cannot read. Student engagement and time on task during silent reading time: Teachers should keep a pulse on students during DEAR time. Emphasize that DEAR time is reading practice time. It's not indoor recess, but rather it has an important purpose: to provide time to practice reading skills. Read the full chapter for a good description of "gossips, wanderers, and...
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