Time Spent Reading in School: Effect on Fourth Graders' Performance on a Criterion Referenced Test of Reading Comprehension Skills

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The Journal of Educational Research



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This study explored the effect of time spent reading versus time spent learning and practicing specific reading comprehension skills as measured by criterion-referenced reading comprehension skill test (CRTs) scores. This educational question is important because many teachers and administrators are reticent to allocate more instructional time to sustained reading of connected text for fear of declining performance on locally administered CRTs. Sixty-one 4th graders were randomly assigned to three different treatment conditions: (a) reading only, (b) reading/skill instruction, and (c) skill instruction only. All the students received 30 min per day of basal reading instruction in their intact classrooms. None of the skills taught in the skill groups were taught during this time. For the remaining 30 min of the 60-min reading period, the students moved to their assigned conditions. Students in the reading-only group read books of their own choosing for 30 min each day for 30 days. Students in the skills-only group received skill instruction and practice on four reading comprehension skills for 30 min each day. Students in the combined reading/skill instruction group read books of their own choosing each day for 15 min and received skill lessons on the same four reading comprehension skill instructed in the skills-only group for the remaining 15 min each day. Results indicated significant pre- to posttest growth for all groups for each of the four reading comprehension skills. However, no differences were found among the three treatment conditions following the 30-day treatment period. The findings tend to argue for increasing time spent reading rather than spending time practicing specific reading skills for the fourth-grade students because reading books produced equivalent gains from pre- to posttest conditions on the CRTs for the four comprehension skills instructed and measured.