Comparing and validating methods of reading instruction using behavioural and neural findings in an artificial orthography

Taylor, Joanne; Davis, Matthew; Rastle, Kathleen. Comparing and validating methods of reading instruction using behavioural and neural findings in an artificial orthography (April 20, 2017) Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

This study showed that learning to read by sounding out words (a teaching method known as phonics) has a dramatic impact on the accuracy of reading aloud and comprehension. Researchers tested whether learning to read by sounding out words is more effective than focusing on whole-word meanings. In order to assess the effectiveness of using phonics the researchers trained adults to read in a new language, printed in unfamiliar symbols, and then measured their learning with reading tests and brain scans. The results were striking; people who had focused on the meanings of the new words were much less accurate in reading aloud and comprehension than those who had used phonics, and the MRI scans revealed that their brains had to work harder to decipher what they were reading. Results suggest that early literacy education should focus on the systematicities present in print-to-sound relationships in alphabetic languages, rather than teaching meaning-based strategies, in order to enhance both reading aloud and comprehension of written words.

Mobilizing Volunteer Tutors to Improve Student Literacy: Implementation, Impacts, and Costs of the Reading Partners Program

Jacob, R.T., Armstrong, C., and Willard, J.A. Mobilizing Volunteer Tutors to Improve Student Literacy: Implementation, Impacts, and Costs of the Reading Partners Program (March 2015) New York, NY: MDRC.

This study reports on an evaluation of the Reading Partners program, which uses community volunteers to provide one-on-one tutoring to struggling readers in underresourced elementary schools. The study showed that after one year of implementation, the program significantly boosted students' reading comprehension, fluency, and sight-word reading — three measures of reading proficiency. These impacts are equivalent to approximately one and a half to two months of additional growth in reading proficiency among the program group relative to the control group.

Can Readability Formulas Be Used to Successfully Gauge Difficulty of Reading Materials?

Begeny, J. C. and Greene, D. J. (2014), Can Readability Formulas Be Used to Successfully Gauge Difficulty of Reading Materials? Psychology in the Schools, 51: 198–215.

Teachers, parents and textbook companies use technical "readability" formulas to determine how difficult reading materials are and to set reading levels by age group. This study from North Carolina State University shows that the readability formulas are usually inaccurate and offer little insight into which age groups will be able to read and understand a text. In the study, 360 students (grades 2-5) read six written passages out loud. The researchers assessed the students’ performance, giving each student an "oral reading fluency" score, which is considered a good metric for measuring reading ability. The researchers then used eight different readability formulas to see which level each formula gave to the six written passages. Results varied widely, with one passage being rated from first grade to fifth grade level. The levels assigned by the readability formulas were then compared with researchers’ assessments of each student’s actual ability to read the material. Seven of the eight readability formulas were less than 49 percent accurate, with the worst formula scoring only 17 percent accuracy. The highest-rated formula was accurate 79 percent of the time.

Technology for Developing Children's Language and Literacy: Bringing Speech Recognition to the Classroom

Adams, M.J. (2011). Technology for Developing Children's Language and Literacy: Bringing Speech Recognition to the Classroom, New York, NY: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), about fifty percent of low-income fourth graders in our nation's schools are unable to read at a basic level. In this report, Brown University's Marilyn Jager Adams, a pioneer in literacy research and practice, points to evidence that speech recognition technology — which is widely used in telephone call-routing and directory assistance — can be tapped as a cost-effective and technically viable means to advance early childhood literacy, particularly fluency. When coupled with effective pedagogy, voice recognition tools can provide valuable assessments that reach beyond the human capacities of the average public school classroom teacher. Adams argues that this emerging technology has the potential to offer real-time literacy support to every student by helping young children learn reading with the fluency needed to compete and cooperate in an increasingly complex age.

How to get recreational reading to increase reading achievement

Kamil, M. (2008). How to get recreational reading to increase reading achievement. In Y. Kim, V. J. Risko, D. L. Compton, D. K. Dickinson, M. K. Hundley, R. T. Jiménez, & D. Well Rowe (Eds.), 57th Yearbook of the National Reading Conference (pp. 31–40). Oak Creek, WI: National Reading Conference.

The conclusion from these studies is that recreational reading by itself has no effect on reading achievement — teachers and instruction are the critical variables in the relationship of recreational reading to reading ability. The current research provides a strong test of the notion that having students read a lot will produce reading achievement gains. This holds true for the entire range of measures used from alphabetics to comprehension. However, instruction can leverage recreational reading to produce some gains in reading achievement, most notably in fluency and comprehension. When recreational reading is encouraged in the context of improved instruction, there are improvements in fluency and comprehension, although not in vocabulary.

Drop Everything and Read — But How? For Students Who Are Not Yet Fluent, Silent Reading Is Not the Best Use of Classroom Time

Hasbrouck, J. (2006). Drop Everything and Read — But How? For Students Who Are Not Yet Fluent, Silent Reading Is Not the Best Use of Classroom Time. American Educator 30(2), Summer 2006.

Silent reading seems like a good idea since it gives students additional practice. Round Robin seems like a good idea since it focuses the class on oral reading. But increasing fluency requires more practice, more support, and more guided oral reading than either of these strategies can deliver. This article cuts through the buzz around fluency and review what reading fluency is, why it is essential to ensure that our students have sufficient fluency, how fluency should be assessed, and how to best provide fluency practice and support for our students.

Fluency: Bridge Between Decoding and Reading Comprehension

Pikulski, J. J., & Chard, D. J. (2005). Fluency: Bridge Between Decoding and Reading Comprehension. The Reading Teacher, 58, 510-519.

A deep, developmental construct and definition of fluency, in which fluency and reading comprehension have a reciprocal relationship, is explicated and contrasted with superficial approaches to that construct. The historical development of fluency is outlined, along with conclusions of the U.S. National Reading Panel, to explore why fluency has moved from being "the neglected aspect of reading" to a popular topic in the field. A practical, developmental instructional program based largely on the theoretical framework and research findings of Linnea Ehri is delineated. The nine essential components of that program include building the graphophonic foundations for fluency; building and extending vocabulary and oral language skills; providing expert instruction and practice in the recognition of high-frequency vocabulary; teaching common word parts and spelling patterns; teaching, modeling, and providing practice in the application of a decoding strategy; using appropriate texts to coach strategic behaviors and to build reading speed; using repeated reading procedures as an intervention approach for struggling readers; extending growing fluency through wide independent reading; and monitoring fluency development through appropriate assessment procedures. The position taken throughout the piece is that teaching, developing, and assessing fluency must always be done in the context of reading comprehension.

A Synthesis of Research on Effective Interventions for Building Reading Fluency with Elementary Students with Learning Disabilities

Chard, D., Vaughn, S., & Tyler, B. J. (2002). A synthesis of research on effective interventions for building reading fluency with elementary students with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 36, 386-406.

Fluent reading, often defined as speed and accuracy, is an important skill for all readers to develop. Students with learning disabilities (LD) often struggle to read fluently, leading to difficulties in reading comprehension. Despite recent attention to reading fluency and ways to improve fluency, it is not clear which features of interventions that are designed to enhance fluency are beneficial for the most struggling readers. The purpose of this study is to synthesize research on interventions that are designed primarily to build reading fluency for students with LD. The search yielded 24 published and unpublished studies that reported findings on intervention features, including repeated reading with and without a model, sustained reading, number of repetitions, text difficulty, and specific improvement criteria. Our findings suggest that effective interventions for building fluency include an explicit model of fluent reading, multiple opportunities to repeatedly read familiar text independently and with corrective feedback, and established performance criteria for increasing text difficulty.

Fluent and Nonfluent Forms of Transfer in Reading: Words and Their Message

Faulkner, H., & Levy, B.A. (1999). Fluent and nonfluent forms of transfer in reading: Words and their message. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 6, 111-116.

In two experiments, we examined transfer to the reading of a normal text from a prior reading of that intact text or from a prior reading of a scrambled word version of the passage. In Experiment 1, we studied good and poor readers in Grade 4; in Experiment 2, high- and low-ability undergraduate readers. Good readers at both ages showed rereading benefits only when the prior reading was of the intact text, with no reliable benefit from experience with words only. The poorer readers showed reliable rereading benefits even when only the words, in a scrambled order, were read on the first encounter. The results are discussed in terms of two forms of transfer: nonfluent reading transfer when attention must be focused on word recognition and fluent rereading transfer when word recognition is skilled so that attention can be focused on text processing.

Repeated Reading to Enhance Fluency: Old Approaches and New Directions

Meyer, M. S., & Felton, R. H. (1999). Repeated reading to enhance fluency: Old approaches and new directions. Annals of Dyslexia, 49, 283-306.

As phoneme awareness deficits and resulting decoding weaknesses are increasingly addressed, there is heightened awareness of the role of fluency in reading. This paper reviews the history of fluency training, discusses the theoretical bases of such training, and summarizes the current knowledge about the efficacy of training procedures. It focuses on Repeated Reading (RR), the most familiar and researched approach to fluency training. Outcome data on Repeated Reading, presented in the form of questions, is meant to answer practitioner's questions about implementation and efficacy and to provide a starting point for researchers interested in the topic. Although some answers are straightforward, others indicate the subtleties involved in answering the broad question: Does Repeated Reading work? In addition to a list of practical suggestions based on Repeated Readings findings, three new approaches to fluency training are introduced.

Effects of Repeated Reading and Listening-While-Reading on Reading Fluency

Rasinski, T.V. (1990). Effects of repeated reading and listening-while-reading on reading fluency. Journal of Educational Research, 83, 147-150.

A study examined the relative effectiveness of repeated readings and listening-while-reading in promoting reading fluency. Subjects, 20 third grade students in a community in the southeastern United States, of high, average, and low reading levels, had their reading fluency measured in two cycles: subjects who repeatedly read a passage in the first cycle repeatedly listened to a presentation of a passage in the second cycle, and subjects who repeatedly listened to a passage in the first cycle repeatedly read a passage in the second cycle. Results indicated that there was no significant difference for reading rate or accuracy by order of presentation of treatment and that both methods were effective in improving reading fluency. (Two tables of data are included; 15 references are attached.)

Repeated Reading and Reading Fluency in Learning Disabled Children

Rashotte, C. & Torgesen, J. (1985). Repeated reading and reading fluency in learning disabled children. Reading Research Quarterly, 20, 180-188.

This study investigated whether improved fluency and comprehension across different stories in repeated reading depend on the degree of word overlap among passages and whether repeated reading is more effective than an equivalent amount of nonrepetitive reading. Non-fluent, learning disabled students read passages presented and timed by a computer under three different conditions. Results suggest that over short periods of time, increases in reading speed with the repeated reading method depend on the amount of shared words among stories, and that if stories have few shared words, repeated reading is not more effective for improving speed than an equivalent amount of nonrepetitive reading.

The Method of Repeated Readings

Samuels, S.J. (1979). The method of repeated readings. The Reading Teacher, 32, 403-408.

Describes the method of repeated readings, discussing the procedure, comprehension, and theoretical rationale. Compares it with music and sports and notes how versions of this method were used in early schooling.

Relationships Between Oral Reading Rates for Letters, Words, and Simple Text in the Development of Reading Achievement

Biemiller, A. (1977-78). Relationships between oral reading rates for letters, words, and simple text in the development of reading achievement. Reading Research Quarterly, 13, 223-253.

The speed and accuracy with which 56 skilled or less skilled readers read words in and out of context was assessed in the fall and spring of the 1st grade by having both groups read random lists of words and coherent paragraphs. The context of the coherent paragraph facilitated word recognition performance to a greater degree in the spring than in the fall, and this developmental trend was similar for both groups. Although the word recognition performance of the skilled readers was superior to that of the less skilled readers on the coherent paragraphs, the former were also better at reading random lists of words. Data indicate that the less skilled readers were getting as much contextual facilitation from the coherent paragraph as were the skilled readers when the latter were at a similar level of context-free decoding ability. This finding, combined with other research, indicates that less skilled readers of this age perform relatively poorly on coherent paragraphs because of poor decoding skills, not because of a strategic inability to use context to facilitate word recognition.

Toward a Theory of Automatic Information Process in Reading

LaBerge, D., & Samuels, S.J. (1974). Toward a theory of automatic information process in reading. Cognitive Psychology, 6, 293-323.

A model of information processing in reading is described in which visual information is transformed through a series of processing stages involving visual, phonological and episodic memory systems until it is finally comprehended in the semantic system. The processing which occurs at each stage is assumed to be learned and the degree of this learning is evaluated with respect to two criteria: accuracy and automaticity. At the accuracy level of performance, attention is assumed to be necessary for processing; at the automatic level it is not. Experimental procedures are described which attempt to measure the degree of automaticity achieved in perceptual and associative learning tasks. Factors which may influence the development of automaticity in reading are discussed.

"The man who does not read good books is no better than the man who can't." — Mark Twain