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The Power of Reading

The Power of Reading

Cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham once said, “It is virtually impossible to become proficient at a mental task without extended practice.” Reading is no different. The reading students do each day represents a form of self-guided practice, similar to learning how to play a musical instrument or shooting free throws after basketball practice for a half hour each day.

Why should educators care about the time and difficulty level of books their students are reading? The makeup of student reading practice matters a lot—for improving achievement, for meeting the goals of new college – and career-readiness standards, and ultimately, for helping students to become well-rounded and successful adults.

The Anatomy of Reading Practice

Three characteristics drive achievement growth. The most powerful of these characteristics are:

  • Comprehension – the extent to which students understand the main points of the books and articles they read.
  • Volume – the time students spend reading each day
  • Challenge – the difficulty and complexity level of the text they encounter, relative to the student’s ability.
Reading Practice Impacts Vocabulary Exposure

In order for students to build and strengthen their vocabularies, they need repeated exposure to words in various contexts. How students get that exposure is largely through reading—every day. The impact of spending a few extra minutes per day reading can be startling over the long term. The majority of students read less than 15 minutes per day.

However, the data show kids who spend more than 30 minutes reading each day are exposed to millions of more words over the course of their schooling. Time spent reading is a long-term investment in vocabulary exposure.

Reading Practice Contributes to College and Career Readiness

Students reaching the benchmark with good grades in an examination is as a function of daily reading because they have a schedule of reading and those who struggle in reading are less more likely to reach the benchmark in examination

Reading Practice Closes Reading Gaps

While it’s true that high-performing students tend to do a lot of reading, we also found that less skilled or struggling readers who read a lot of appropriate challenging books with high comprehension tend to experience accelerated growth throughout the school year—and close gaps. The key here is to make sure students spend enough time with those engaging and appropriately challenging text.

Students who begin the year below their peers are not destined to stay there. Students who start low but receive high-quality instruction, read books that are of interest, spend more time reading, encounter more words and demonstrate comprehension of their daily reading can surge ahead and catch up to their peers.

Reading Practice Helps Students Read More and Better

It’s no secret that meeting established goals is associated with improved performance and reading is no different. Students who meet goals set by examination bodies read more and achieve better results or outcomes.

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