Review of Research and Theory on theRelation Between Oral Reading Rate and Reading Comprehension

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Journal of Behavioral Education



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We review the conceptual and empirical literature on the relation between oral reading rate and reading comprehension. Three lines of conceptual analysis converge on this relation: (a) application of basic behavior analytic principles suggests that fluent decoding should produce better reading comprehension through direct and indirect relations, (b) behavior analytic understanding of the importance of the rate of behavior as developed by Skinner, Lindsley and Haughton implies that higher reading rate contributes to improved comprehension, and (c) cognitive theory of automaticity explicitly states that high rate reading sets the stage for effective comprehension. A wealth of correlational evidence indicates that reading rate and reading comprehension covary. These results have been replicated across elementary grades and across a variety of measures of reading comprehension. However, experimental analyses have not convincingly demonstrated a functional relation between the two. Experimental work has yielded results that are mixed at best. Examination of experimental design issues shows that although this is not a simple relation to investigate, behavior analysts can make major contributions to understanding the possible functional relation between reading rate and reading comprehension.

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