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TextProject president and CEO Elfrieda H. (Freddy) Hiebert blogs about important issues in reading research and practice.
Educators at one school had decided that, because the NRP concluded that “No research evidence is available currently to confirm that instructional time spent on silent, independent reading with minimal guidance and feedback improves reading fluency or overall reading achievement,” there should be no silent reading during the Reading First block. For all intents and purposes, silent reading had been eliminated from the primary grades in this school.
E.D. Hirsch has described the dilemma in depth; David Pearson has described the same dilemma succinctly. The bottom line is that reading/language arts instruction needs to be centered on content. We agree on that. But what content? I reviewed the standards documents of the nation’s two largest states and the national standards document. I found little that could guide state and district leaders or publishers in designing the content-rich curricula that Hirsch and Pearson are describing.
What does comprehension instruction look like for the millions of American students who aren’t fluent readers? The concern isn’t an hypothetical one. The number of middle and high schoolers in this situation is high (e.g., Rasinski et al., Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 2005). Even middle and high schoolers who are lucky enough to be in effective fluency interventions will still be faced with texts that will be challenging to comprehend.
If teachers cry “Wolf” early and often (with Wolf being “Remember to use a comprehension strategy such as predict/infer, summarize, monitor/clarify, question, evaluate before, during, and after reading”) but the texts that students read are straightforward and uncomplicated, do students become careless about or even resistant to using comprehension strategies?