Free Reading and Student Achievement
When students choose their reading materials positive things happen.
When students make choices for themselves, there is a direct effect on their reading. Students take more pleasure from reading materials they have selected. There is also an effect on vocabulary. Research has shown that when introduced to new words within books, readers learn the meaning of 5-20% of the new words after only one reading.
When students participate in free reading, they see the words used in context. They also see the words spelled correctly. Stephen Krashen, an expert in the field of linguistics, states that each time students read a new word, they make "a small amount of progress in acquiring the correct spelling."
I can attest to that statement. My grade school teachers were always dismayed. I was a terrific reader, but horrible at spelling. I cannot close my eye and picture the word. (Quick, close your eye and picture the word "love." Do you see it? I cannot see the word.) It was only in encountering words in reading that I was able to memorize how they are spelled.
When students read a wide variety of materials they develop into strong, able readers. They also are able to connect to the type of literature that speaks to them. Books and other printed materials need to be available in school and public libraries. Krashen conducted a study that showed that increasing the number of books in the library resulted in significantly greater circulation of materials.
This means that we need to put books that students want to read into their hands. Is it Captain Underpants that drives them to read? Fine! Is it manga that brings them back to the printed word? Great! It is in reading that readers develop skills.
Have you read The Power of Reading in the Library?
Recommended Resource For Your Library
The Power of Reading, by Stephen Krashen
Continuing the case for free voluntary reading set out in the book's 1993 first edition, this new, updated, and much-looked-for second edition explores new research done on the topic in the last 10 years as well as looking anew at some of the original research reviewed.
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