Part of being a reading specialist is always looking back at what I have done and see if there is a way for me to be better. Is there something I am doing that will help my students even more than I am now. I have spent the last couple of weeks doing some reflecting.
My middle school students have been doing a lot of reading on their own. They are working on asking questions about the story or characters the last few weeks. Part of my reflection wrapped around the question am I having them read too much? Should I be doing more echo reading, or repeated reading? When the doubts surface, I often head back to research. I review my journals from the Reading Research Quarterly and the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. I read the National Reading Panel (NRP) reports again as well. I kept thinking I was missing something. I kept reading that silent reading didn’t help overall reading ability. Finally, I went back to the book I have read and reread parts of since this last summer which is Disrupting Thinking by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst. My clarity came in chapter 13.
This chapter helped me to digest the gnawing doubt that had settled in the back of my brain. The chapter made the difference between what the NRP said versus how it is being interpreted by many abundantly clear. The NRP reported that silent reading in and of itself did not show gains in reading. The key in this statistic is that this reading time was completely unsupported. No supervision or any kind of instruction was used in any of these studies. However, when silent reading is instituted with supervision and instruction, it IS beneficial and creates stronger readers. This is the perfect case of not having the full picture. The study done by the NRP looks one way, when really, it is not quite the whole picture.
I am so glad I did look back at the research and investigated. So many articles had discussed the research that was released by the National Reading Panel and indicated the support for silent reading wasn’t there. It is also a reminder to me that if something does seem right, I need to keep investigating. I also have the feeling of being better informed. Ultimately, this reflection helps me to be sure I am doing the things that my students need to do in order to become stronger readers.