In-School Independent Reading

The studies cited above establish the importance of out-of-school reading. A study by Taylor, Frye, and Maruyama (1990) suggested that the amount of time students are engaged in silent reading in school may be even more important. The importance of in-school independent reading is also supported by major reviews such as Anderson, Hiebert, Scott, and Wilkerson, 1985, and Adams, 1990. Anderson et al. concluded: "Research suggests that the amount of independent, silent reading that children do in school is significantly related to gains in reading achievement" (p. 76). However, these researchers go on to note that most students spend very little school time engaged in silent reading - an average of only about seven minutes a day in the primary grades and about fifteen minutes in the intermediate grades. The obvious conclusion to be drawn is that the amount of time students read independently in school needs to be significantly increased.

Finding the Time

The research reviewed above suggests that time for independent reading is not a "frill" but an essential ingredient in an effective reading program. Scheduling time for independent reading should be a high priority.

Research also suggests that some classroom teachers may be spending considerable amounts of time on activities that do not promote growth in reading. Durkin (1978-1979) found that teachers spent large amounts of time asking questions that had little or no instructional value; that is, questions that tested but did not promote reading comprehension. The amount of time devoted to such questions could productively be reduced.

Anderson et al. (1985) indicated that students spent up to 70% of the time allotted to reading instruction doing "seat work," which usually involved completing workbook or worksheet exercises - activities that the researchers found were unrelated to growth in reading.

Ford (1991) concludes that many teachers overuse worksheets, which are of questionable value as a way of occupying student time. He suggests that, based on research, independent reading and writing that lead to improved reading achievement could productively replace worksheet activities.

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