Dr. Timothy Rasinski, professor of literacy education at Kent State University, notes in the forward to Teaching Stamina & Silent Reading in the Digital-Global Age (E.H. Hiebert, 2015) that reading fluency has been taught and assessed primarily through methods of oral reading – often for speed and for very short periods of time – making it the predominant form of reading in many primary and intermediate classrooms across the country.1
While oral reading is proven to be beneficial to students, Dr. Rasinski argues that it should not be the only form of reading that students engage with and the only method that educators use to assess reading fluency.1
What is Reading Fluency?
In A Focus on Fluency (Osborn, Lehr, Hiebert, 2003), attention is called to the fact that there is no single, agreed-upon definition for reading fluency.2 However, the National Reading Panel (2000) defines reading fluency as “the ability to read a text quickly, accurately, and with proper expression.”3
Fluency is important for reading proficiency and is the bridge between reading comprehension and word recognition.
To develop strong, proficient readers, and to prepare students for lifelong success in various aspects of life, students need to become fluent in silent reading.
Additionally, The Literacy Company states that “learning to read fluently is the result of the satisfactory evolution from oral reading to silent reading, a practice which is almost virtually ignored after the third grade.”4
The Importance of Silent Reading Fluency (SRF)
While oral reading is vital to a student in the early stages of learning, silent reading is advantageous throughout a student’s life.4
As students progress to more advanced grade levels, higher education, and – ultimately – the workforce, silent reading fluency emerges as an imperative skill.
Dr. Mark Daniel, Principal Research Scientist for Pearson Assessments, discusses one major limitation to oral reading fluency (ORF) in the webinar, stating that oral reading is not what older students and adults do when they read. Instead, they read silently with comprehension. Silent reading fluency is what they need to be successful in school and the workforce.5
Dr. Timothy Rasinski points out that advanced reading – high school content, college material, adult literature – consists of lengthy texts. Furthermore, professionals in various industries are required to closely read, comprehend, and analyze difficult, in-depth material.1
For these reasons, it’s easy to see why silent reading fluency, silent reading stamina, and the opportunity to read challenging material in the classroom is a prerequisite for reading proficiency and success in school and various career fields.1
But, how can silent reading fluency be measured in a valid, reliable, and effective way?
Stay tuned for part II of this blog post, where we will discuss a silent reading fluency measure that gives educators extensive feedback on a student’s silent reading rate and silent reading comprehension abilities.
1 Rasinski, Timothy, Hiebert, Elfrieda H. Teaching Stamina & Silent Reading in the Digital-Global Age (Forward). “Striking the Right Balance: Why Silent and Extended Reading of Challenging Materials Matters” (p. iii-v). Accessed June 10, 2016. http://textproject.org/assets/library/resources/Hiebert-2015-Teaching-Stamina-and-Silent-Reading-PRINT.pdf
2 Osborn, Jean M.Ed., Lehr, Fran M.A., Hiebert, Elfrieda H., Ph. D. “A Focus on Fluency.” Accessed June 11, 2016. http://textproject.org/assets/library/resources/Osborn-Lehr-Hiebert-2003-A-Focus-on-Fluency-booklet.pdf.
3 The National Reading Panel. “Fuency” (Chapter 3, pg. 3-5). Accessed June 12, 2016.
4 The Literacy Company. “The Important Evolution of Oral to Silent Reading.” Accessed June 11, 2016. http://www.readfaster.com/articles/oral-to-silent-reading.asp.
5 Pearson Education. “Exploring the Measurement of Silent Reading Fluency.” Accessed June 14, 2016. http://www.pearsoned.com/events/exploring-the-measurement-of-silent-reading-fluency/.