I love to read. My current favorite books are The Library Book by Susan Orlean, The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict and The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. Unfortunately, too many of the students I have had the privilege of working with say they are slow readers and hate reading; they see reading as a chore, not the escape I know it to be.
Last year I decided to find out why and find a way to do something to change students’ perspective on reading.
Educators are always looking to improve the quality and effectiveness of classroom teaching and different philosophies come and go. Reading is a good example. Phonics based methods morphed into whole language which grew into Common Core standards and its focus on Close Reading. While some students do just fine learning with new philosophies and techniques, others do not. In reading, both comprehension and speed matter. While Close Reading focuses on comprehension, there is little in classrooms today that focuses on speed. Yet standardized tests all assume students can read at grade appropriate words per minute (WPM).
Reading rates can be categorized into three speeds*: reading for memorization (similar to Close Reading, 100 wpm) reading for learning new material (the first time a reader is exposed to the subject, 100 to 200 wpm) and reading for comprehension (regular day-to-day reading; books, articles, news and the like, 200-400 wpm).
Last May we began assessing students and the results were startling. Two thirds of students read well below the rate for comprehension and a third of those students read at the memorization rate. This was true of academically strong students, average students, and students who struggle.
Training students in elementary school to move from reading phonically to
sight/visual reading is no longer part of the standard curriculum; consequently they sub-vocalize -- say the words in their head. Since the fastest we can speak is 160 words a minute, the person who sub-vocalizes is destined to be a slow reader. Add the Close Reading training and the reader slows down even more. Since the average teen/adult can process nearly 500 words per minute, it is no wonder a slow reader finds reading boring.
Our focus on reading has seen speed increase in each student. The highest achiever has moved from 107 wpm to 270 wpm. There are things that can be done to help a student increase their speed without decreasing their comprehension. The first step is our free assessment, our website; www.academicjourneys.us/reading-matters will guide you. Imagine how much easier homework will be if a student can double their reading speed!
After a global career in human resources, Maureen McGovern changed her focus to students applying the same key skills, strong counseling, proper guidance, and solid preparation. For 10 years Academic Journeys (formerly known as Chyten Tutors and Test Prep) has provided families with academic support, test prep and admissions counseling. Working with students from 3rd grade through college, the team at AcJ guides students and families on their journey! 973 564 5220
*wpm rates shown are for 10th grade.