Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Repeated Reading versus Continuous Reading: Influences on Reading Fluency and Comprehension

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Repeated Reading versus Continuous Reading: Influences on Reading Fluency and Comprehension

Article excerpt

The recent focus on scientifically based reading instruction has led many school districts to consider reading development in terms of the five dimensions that organized the National Reading Panel Reports of the Subgroups (NRP, 2000): phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Of all of these components, the panel concluded that we know the least about reading fluency. In studies of reading interventions, fluency is among the most difficult of the dimensions to remediate for children with reading disabilities (Kamps & Greenwood, 2005; Lovett & Steinbach, 1997; O'Connor et al., 2002; Torgesen, 2000). Fluency comprises several features, including rate of reading, prosody, and attention to punctuation, all of which intersect to bring words on a page to life. In this research, we focused on one aspect of fluency: the rate at which students read aloud.

Reading rate is important because students who recognize words effortlessly should be able to devote more attention to reading comprehension (LaBerge & Samuels, 1974; Perfetti, 1985). In theories regarding information processing and verbal efficiency, improving lower level processes (speed and accuracy of reading words) frees students to devote their attention to understanding the meaning of text. Therefore, the motivation for improving reading rate is the possibility that increased rate might enable improved reading comprehension.

Evidence for this assertion comes primarily from studies of correlations and multiple regressions, in which rate of reading was strongly related to reading comprehension when the two aspects of reading were measured concurrently. Individuals skilled in reading comprehension read words faster than individuals with poor reading comprehension (Jenkins, Fuchs, van den Broek, Espin, & Deno, 2003; Perfetti & Hogaboam, 1975) and the relationship between reading rate and reading comprehension has been strong in most studies throughout the elementary school years (O'Connor et al., 2002; Rupley, Willson, & Nichols, 1998; Spear-Swerling & Sternberg, 1994), with correlations in the range of .6 to .9. Furthermore, when accuracy and rate of reading are considered together, reading rate accounts for significant variance in reading comprehension, even after the ability to read words accurately in lists (Jenkins et al.; Schatschneider, 2004) and prosody or reading expression (Schwanenflugel, Hamilton, Kuhn, Wisenbaker, & Stahl, 2004) have been accounted for.

Although it is a common assumption that reading rate influences comprehension, little evidence exists to support a causal connection. O'Shea, Sindelar, and O'Shea (1985) suggest that for rate improvement to influence comprehension, students need to be told to attend to the meaning of what they read; however, their study used average readers as participants, most of whom were already fluent. It is difficult with the existing body of studies to explore causal relations between increased rate and reading comprehension because many experimental studies of reading rate are too short in duration to generate generalized improvements in fluency to new text. Of the 15 fluency studies in Meyer and Felton's (1999) review, only 3 included more than 20 sessions, and one of these (Herman, 1985) did not measure reading comprehension. In order for causal connections between rate of reading and reading comprehension to be explored, experiments would need to focus on increasing reading rate sufficiently to generalize to unpracticed text and measure changes in other aspects of reading.


A student's reading rate can be influenced by many contextual features; there is ample evidence that one of the major differences between good and poor readers is the amount of time they spend reading. Unfortunately, Allington (1977) and Biemiller (1977-1978) found that the students who need the most practice in reading spend the least amount of time reading in school. …

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