At Long-View, we work to protect our reading minutes and be sure that literacy instructional time does not go to activities that do not involve “eyes on print.” We protect time for independent reading, and know that explicit and high-level instruction, access to high-interest texts, and volume are crucial.
That being said, there is not enough time for independent reading during the day at school. We hold ambitious goals for daily reading at home: two hours a day, five days a week. This is our minimum recommendation, and it is a recommendation for everyone, whether a child is an early reader or a fluent/experienced reader, able to navigate complex texts. We ask that parents take stock of how their child is doing in the area of reading volume, and decide as a family how to work to meet the goal of 2 hours a day, 5 times a week.
A mountain of research supports the fact that success in reading is directly related to the amount of time a person spends reading.
“Time spent reading, including reading silently, has consistently correlated strongly with reading achievement.” (Reutzel & Juth, 2014, p. 29).
“Every measure that looks at pleasure reading and its effects on student performance on standardized tests of reading ability—and science and math—tells us that the major predictor of academic success is the amount of time that a student spends reading. In fact, the top 5 percent of U.S. students read up to 144 times more than the kids in the bottom 5 percent.” (Atwell, 2007, p. 107).
“The amount of time spent reading is the best predictor of reading achievement, including a child’s growth as a reader from second to fifth grade.” (Anderson, wilson, and Fielding, 1988).
“Fourth graders who read at the second grade level spend just half an hour a day reading, while fourth-graders who read at the eighth-grade level spend four and a half hours a day reading.” (Guthrie and Humenick, 2004).
“The NAEP Reading Report Card for the Nation shows that at every level, reading more pages at home and at school was associated with higher reading scores.” (U.S. Department of Education, 1999).
For a child who is an early reader, two hours a day doesn’t have to mean two hours of reading the same book, and it certainly doesn’t mean reading all fiction. Nonfiction and poetry are also vital. Perhaps within this two hours, a child reads alone for 20 minutes, reads to a parent for 20 minutes, reads a science news article out of National Geographic Kids for another 15 minutes, reads a news article on newsela.com for 20 minutes, is read to for 30 minutes, and reads a storybook to a younger sibling for 15 minutes. It’s important a child is reading “just right books” when reading alone; this means he or she can read the text with 96% or better accuracy.
With a more confident, fluent, and experienced reader, a parent may still have to make time and space (and help with self-discipline) to be sure that two hours of reading happens daily. Parents should also encourage an equal balance of reading informational texts and fiction, and should also read a book together with the child (this might be read aloud or might be a book you are both jointly reading and can talk about together). Hand your experienced reader your Time magazine, Popular Science, or Foreign Affairs with appropriate articles marked. Have them read a beautiful paragraph you found in the novel you are reading to yourself. Keep your eye on variety, but pay close attention to whether he or she is hitting the mark on volume.
Here’s other crucial information that will help you keep an eye on whether your child’s reading volume is hitting the mark:
For children reading books like Stone Fox, which is a Level P book and approximately on grade level for end of 3rd grade, they should be able to read it in two to four hours. Stone Fox contains 12,000 words, and if it is an accessible text to your child and they are reading fiction for just half of their reading time, they should still be able to complete Stone Fox or other similar books in three to four days. Be wary if your child is reading at this level but taking weeks to complete a book. That should not happen!
For children reading books at the upper end of the “ladder of text complexity,” such as U-W books, they should finish one of these books a week. Most Level U-W books (the benchmark for 5th-6th grade) can be read in four hours.
Over 50% of the Long-View readers read above Level W (and thus are able to tackle upper 6th grade through high school/adult level text complexity). Therefore, more than half should be reading at least a book a week, while also reading an equal amount or more of informational text. (Your child’s “reading diet” by 4th grade should be at least 50% informational text, tipping over to comprising more informational text than fiction/narrative at levels above that.)
In addition to the national research that supports the importance of a high reading volume, we have seen first-hand the impact that a rich reading life can have on a learner’s thinking, reading achievement, contributions in Campfire, connections in science, and even imaginative play at the park. We hope you will join us in prioritizing your child’s reading volume.