Repeated Reading. CHAPTER TWO




Repeated reading (RR) is a popular intervention used to improve fluency in struggling readers (Meyer & Felton, 1999; Samuals, 1979; National Reading Panel, 2000). RR has a history of helping students build reading fluency for over 40 years (Kostewicz, Kubina, & Gallagher, 2016). Several types of research indicated that repeated reading is an evidence-based practice and provide research supporting this view (Dowhower ,1989, Therrien, 2004, Herman, 1985,Vadasy & Sanders, 2008, Musti-Rao et al., 2009, Lo, Cooke, and Starling, 2011 and Zawoyski, Ardoin, Binder, 2014). The National Reading Panel in 2000 identified RR as an effective method for increasing word recognition, fluency, and comprehension.  However, researchers such as Savaiano and Hatton, 2013, Ari, 2011, and Hawkins et al., 2015 have found inconclusive evidence that RR is more effective than other teaching used for improving students’ fluency and comprehension.  Therrien’s research indicates the variations in effectiveness are correlated with the types of methods used within the RR program being studied (Therrien, 2004).  Thus, a critical review of RR studies should be established to discuss their general efficacy, delineate “best practice,” and target areas requiring further research. The discussion of the RR studies cannot be undertaken without first acquiring a greater understanding of the foundation for this intervention. Hence, in this chapter repeated reading will be examined in greater detail, focusing on how it is conceptualized theoretically and how RR interventions have been applied in practice.

Research Supporting Repeated Reading as an Evidence Based Practice

Whereas there are numerous controversies surrounding the question of the use of repeated reading in seeking to improve learners’ reading skills, there are some studies that focus on featuring evidence of the effectiveness of the approach. Proponents of repeated, such as Vadasy and Sanders (2008), note that the practice improves learner reading fluency by addressing the issue of familiarity of the words. For instance, according to Therren (2004) notes that with the appropriate instructions, the weak learners in reading fluency may be helped to increase their fluency, which implies that the skill is dependent on the level of familiarity with the words read. By reading passages aloud to older individuals, the learners are prepared psychologically and also experience ease in reading other new passages (Therren, 2004). Therren (2004) also notes that while reading aloud may have a positive impact on the reading abilities of the learners, the participation of adults during the intervention sessions also influences the ultimate mean performance in both comprehensions and reading fluency.

Haung, Nelson, and Nelson, (2008) argue that reading fluency is significantly affected by the level of comprehension for the learner, which, in turn, is determined by the ‘reading feeling.’ The assertion by the authors implies that repeated reading sessions among peers, despite the possibility of helping one improve, does not trigger the ‘feeling of reading,’ which stirs comprehension and helps one improve fluency. Phonemic awareness, vocabulary, comprehension, alphabetic principle, and fluency are some of the elements that are developed through repeated reading (MustiRao, Hawkins and Barkley, 2009). With repeated reading whereby instructions include reading aloud to adults, learners can ensure that they develop phonemic awareness, which makes it easier to articulate the words (MustiRao, Hawkins and Barkley, 2009). The ease of articulation, in turn, helps in the development of the ‘feeling of reading’ for better comprehension and fluency (MustiRao, Hawkins and Barkley, 2009).

About half of the entire population of fourth graders being unable to read fluently in the United States, according to Vadasy and Sanders (2008), a finding the necessitated study on ways of enhancing reading effectiveness. Through their findings, the authors assert that with a more focused and intensive approach to reading practice, fluency among the learners can be improved. Through the ‘Quick Reads’ program for fluency used as a primary fluency intervention approach for the fourth graders and the fifth graders, the researchers demonstrate how repeated reading procedures help in improving the learners’ recognition of words and reading fluency. The recognition of words with ease is considered an important part of ensuring that the students can read with fluency. It is noteworthy that learners’ ability to identify a given the word from the familiarity of its letters help in improving the fluency of the learner, repeated reading ensures that the learners can readily identify individual words through a glance at the letters.

Repeated reading has three phases. The first phase known as the initial timing phase requires the reader to time read a selection “cold.” Students are given a 50-200 word passage which they repeatedly read until they reach a criterion rate noted as words per minute (WPM) (Kuhn & Stahl, 2003). Readers who exceed these criteria should have the difficulty of the passage increased or decreased depending upon their errors. Then the student practices the same reading selection for a predetermined amount of time. This can range from three to seven times but can be as low as once. This is known as the practice phase of the method. During the practice phase, different models of fluent readers may also be provided from a recording of a proficient reader, reading with a proficient peer, or adult modeling. This is often referred to as assisted repeated reading (Rasinski, Homan, & Biggs, 2009). During the practice or assisted reading phase, the student receives feedback on performance and correction of errors to assist the student with strengthening their future reading performance. The final stage requires that the student read for 1 minute. Students may graph and monitor their progress. Providing the opportunity for students to monitor and receive feedback on their progress produces positive results (Archer et al., 2003).

Repeated reading has been used effectively for two purposes. First, it has been used to improve students’ ability to fluently read a particular passage. Studies conclusively found that when students re-read a passage, their speed and accuracy improved. (Dahl, 1977; Faulkner & Levy, 1999; Hasbrouck & Tindal, 1992; Herman 1985; Levy, Abello, & Lysynchuk, 1997; O’Shea, Sindelar, & O’Shea, 1985, 1987; Rasinski, 1990). Second, repeated reading has been used as a reading intervention to improve students’ overall fluency. A majority of studies that investigated the use of repeated reading as an intervention found that students’ ability to fluently read novel material improved after being involved in an intervention that required them to repeatedly read a series of passages (Bryant et al., 2000; Downhower, 1987; Homan, Klesius, & Hite, 1993; Mathes & Fuchs, 1993; Mercer, Campbell, Miller, Mercer, & Lane, 2000; Rasinski, Padak, Linek, & Sturtevant, 1994; Simmons, Fuchs, Fuchs, Mathes, & Hodge, 1995; Vaughn, Chard, Bryant, Coleman, & Kouzekanani, 2000; Young, Bowers, & MacKinnon, 1996).

Zimmerman and Rasinski (2012) cited Dudley (2005) indicating that students who do not have accurate speed and decoding in reading fall behind their average peers, experiencing difficulty in catching up in academic performance and achievement. The intervention of repeated reading has been used to provide support for students who struggle with fluency. Jay Samuels not only noted the increase in fluency when using the intervention of repeated reading, but he also noted the correlation to improved comprehension (Kuhn & Stahl, 2003). Kuhn and Stahl (2003) found 15 studies which assessed the effects of repeated reading on fluency using a control group. The studies required the reader to read each passage a set number of times with a median number of three. Six of the studies showed repeated reading produced significantly greater achievement than the control group while eight did not produce results indicating increases in reading fluency compared to the control group. The studies also showed that as a general rule, when fluency increased so did comprehension. Klauda and Guthrie (2008) specifically looked at fluency and comprehension by breaking fluency into three distinct categories – word, syntactic, and passage.

Research Asserting There Is Not Enough High-Quality Research to Support RR as an Evidence-Based Practice

Prior studies have supported RR as an Evidence-Based Practice and have proved that the latter helps in fostering positive results (Daane et al., 2005). However, more literature from other researchers maintains that there is not enough high-quality research to support RR as evidence-based practice (Daggett & Hasselbring, 2007). For instance, Edmonds et al. (2009) argue that some researchers have found inconclusive evidence that RR is more effective than other teaching used for improving students’ fluency and comprehension (Daane et al., 2005). As such, regardless of a remarkable amount of basic research on reading, Daggett and Hasselbring (2007) maintain that only a modest number of actual plans promote improvements. From the authors’ analysis, it has been noted that the latter seems to improve learners’ performance based on the precise evaluation (Chall, 1979).

It is noteworthy that there are components of RR which make it quite ineffective compared to other intervention methods (Chall, 1979).  Identifying these most efficient components constitutes “best practice” when using the RR intervention in teacher’s classrooms. Drawing upon the literature, it appears that teachers may use either a criterion-based or fixed trial approach and still expect to see gains in accuracy and reading rate with most children (Dowhower, 1989). When fixed tests are used, three to four repeated readings should be conducted. The choice to go beyond three repeats is up to the teacher’s discretion, but evidence suggests diminishing returns past the third trial.

Although RR is a widely used practice to improve reading fluency for those experiencing reading difficulties in different institutions, the practice, according to other researchers, is not an entirely standardized procedure (Cunningham & Stanovich, 2011). Pieces of literature on RR prove that there is no agreement regarding how often the process should be used to be effective (Dowhower, 1989). Equally, studies on the same indicate that RR has been conducted on relatively small interventions. Based on that, it might not be clear how many times the practice should be used to foster improvement to learners. From that point of view, it can be argued that RR interventions may require students to reread the same texts often. It should be taken into account that rereading the same text over and over may not facilitate improvement because it might not clear which of these methods is more beneficial (Dennis, Solic & Allington, 2012).

Focusing on Daggett and Hasselbring (2007) research, he purports that when RR is implemented, it is likely to be assisted by an adult reader or teacher. Based on that, it is unclear whether the most effective method depends upon the student’s skills and developmental needs (Fuchs & Fuchs, 2011).There exist unclear findings whether the independent or instructional-level text is associated with greater fluency gains (Dennis, Solic & Allington, 2012). Backing this argument, Herman (1985) maintain that very little is understood about the role of text characteristics during the practice. According to Dennis, Solic & Allington (2012) suggestions, although RR may mediate instructional and fluency gains, the likelihood that the words uttered repeatedly will be reencountered and reinforced in other grade-level remains a challenge.

Other studies show the variations in effectiveness are correlated with the types of methods used within the RR program being studied (Therrien, 2004).  Thus, a critical review of RR studies should be established to discuss their general efficacy, delineate “best practice,” and target areas requiring further research. To work on the existent gaps, it will be important if the discussion of the RR studies will be undertaken by acquiring a greater understanding of the foundation for this method of intervention.

Effectiveness of Other Reading Interventions

Studies indicate that learning institutions in different parts of the world have a focus on literacy. The following literature contains an analysis of several studies on the effects of reading intervention strategies on various scholars at-risk of reading disabilities (LaVasseur, Macaruso & Shankweiler, 2008). Over the years, various interventions have been used by educators in different levels of education to foster students’ progress in reading. From Kuhn and Stahl (2003) research, it is evident that reading progress can be affected by effective early interventions.

Being an essential skill in life, theories revolving around the techniques of reading are numerous (Kuhn, Schwanenflugel & Meisinger, 2010). Importantly, it is noteworthy that many factors can put a learner at risk of struggling to read. Therefore, intervening in those moments might offer effective solutions and might improve the learners’ ability to read at any given moment Meyer & Felton, (1999). Based on the analyses conducted by different researchers, it is interesting to note that interventions yield positive results for different types of students and various aspects of reading (Kuhn, Schwanenflugel & Meisinger, 2010). In favor of LaVasseur, Macaruso, and Shankweiler (2008) analysis, the authors maintain that early identification, as well as taking into account various needs of different students is necessary for the provision of the most effective, yet appropriate intervention. With a focus on Kuhn and Stahl (2003) research, in the literate society, it is a prerequisite that an individual should learn and understand how to read for success. For learners who are at risk of reading disabilities, the essence of reading interventions is to help them become proficient readers (Kuhn & Stahl, 2003). Through interventions, educators can offer the affected learners with skills to help them acquire the necessary skills. Equally, based on Macaruso and Shankweiler (2008) arguments, learners can find the instructions needed for them to accomplish the set targets. Educators are not only able to identify some areas that promote reading disabilities but can work on them through different theories.

Edmonds et al. (2009) conducted an analysis to measure the effectiveness of various intervention methods in the processes of helping readers experiencing hardships to read. From the research, Espin et al. (2009) asserted that as a result of interventions, learners were found to significantly improve their skills as per the instructions were given to them by their tutors by more than 85% (Espin et al., 2009). Consequent to the positive progresses witness from different people; it can be argued that invention is positive and equally effective.

Considerable improvements were witnessed for students taken through the reading recovery intervention compared to others who were offered no support. As observed in most learning institutions, it is evident that learners who struggle with reading need to be enhanced teaching for them to enjoy the opportunities of being guided. Edmonds (2009) gives emphasis to the need for learners to be offered productive literacy activities at all times to foster positive learning experience. With a focus on the needs of struggling readers, an intervention should target a particular aspect of learning difficulty and provide the necessary assistance (Espin, 2009). The essence, according to Edmonds (2009) is to ensure that the concerned educator identifies the area of greatest deficit or need (Dowhower, 1989). Studies show that one of the areas of greatest need for the majority of students with reading difficulties is the reading fluency (Dowhower, 1989). As such, teachers should set measures to ensure that all their students are assisted according to their needs. It is easier to tackle and eradicate reading difficulties as they emerge (Espin, 2009). As aforementioned, different methods of reading intervention strategies seem to be effective for learners with reading difficulties (Espin, 2009). However, a thorough analysis should be conducted for educators to understand and determine the strategy that works best.

The above-noted methods of intervention remain useful because of their precise formulation of procedures and rationale for implementation (Samuels, 1979). It is clear that a simple intervention was needed to supplement the reading instruction a child was already receiving, not replace it, as repeated reading is not a method for teaching all beginning reading skills. As such, those methods are there to assist struggling readers who were not making progress by a core reading curriculum alone (Espin, 2009).

Although RR has three phases, a learner practices the same reading selection for a predetermined amount of time. During the practice phase, different models of fluent readers may also be provided from a recording of a proficient reader, reading with a proficient peer, or adult modeling. This is often referred to as assisted repeated reading (Rasinski, Homan, & Biggs, 2009). During the practice or assisted reading phase, the student receives feedback on performance and correction of errors to assist the student with strengthening their future reading performance. The final stage requires that the student read for 1 minute. Students may graph and monitor their progress. Providing the opportunity for students to control and receive feedback on their progress produces positive results (Archer et al., 2003).

Research on Best Practices Used within Repeated Reading Program

There are numerous studies that feature evidence of the fact that repeated reading is an effective means of improving reading fluency among learners with learning difficulties. Lo, Cooke, and Starling (2011) feature a study that seeks to evaluate the impacts of repeated reading instruction on learners’ fluency. Error correction, for instance, is discussed as one of the instructional approaches in repeated reading that is effective in making sure that the learners do not repeat the same mistakes previously made (Lo, Cooke and Starling, 2011). Research demonstrates that by stopping a learner during the reading sessions and making them restate the misstated word correctly more than once, it is possible to ensure that the learner can easily recognize the words and state it without hesitance on subsequent reading sessions (Lo, Cooke and Starling, 2011). The approach was evidenced to have a strong influence on the reading performances of some of the study groups that evaluated in the research conducted by Lo, Cooke, and Starling. In yet another study conducted by Savaiano and Hatton (2013), repeated reading is evidenced to have a positive impact on the progress featured by learners with visual impairment. The researchers show that there is functional between the learners repeated reading and understanding of the text passage, which suggests that with the right instructions, learners experienced easy time in developing their phonetic awareness and word recognition. There was also a registered higher likelihood of a child experiencing reading ease in new passages following sessions of repeated reading instruction.

Repeated reading is recognized as one of the oldest and most studied methods of fluency intervention. Repeated reading is based on the work of LeBerge and Samuels’s (1974) information processing model in which fluent readers automatically decode, leaving attention free for comprehension (Meyer & Felton, 1999). Samuels’s method of repeated reading is shared in his classic article from 1976 and reprinted in 1997, The Method of Repeated Readings. Repeated entails rereading a short, meaningful passage numerous times until the reader can read with a level of fluency deemed appropriate. This procedure is repeated then with a new passage (Samuels, 1997). In the original study conducted by Samuels (1976), a young student, identified with substantial learning difficulties, selected a text that was meaningful to the reader. Selecting a short selection of approximately 50-200 words, the student was asked to read the passage to an assistant who recorded the speed and number of word recognition errors on a graph. Then the student was directed to return to his/her seat to practice until called back by the assistant. The procedure was repeated until the reader obtained an 85-WPM criterion rate. Once this was attained, the student was then directed to the next passage (Samuels, 1997). Utilizing five different passages, Samuels (1997) noted that reading speed increased. He also established that the number of repeated readings needed to reach the criterion reading speed began to show a decrease as the student continued repeated reading. Fluency was defined in this study as the accuracy of word recognition and reading speed. Samuels (1997) further noted that speed was more important than accuracy as emphasizing accuracy creates a situation where the reader reads slowly only focusing on being correct. Samuels (1997) also noted that comprehension increased as the student experienced less decoding errors and could give their attention to the text rather than the phonemes.


In conclusion, most of the studies reviewed such as The National Reading Council (2000); RAND (2002); Chard; Vaughn, & Tyler (2002); Therrien (2004); Kuhn (2005); Cooke & Sterling (2011); and Savaiano & Hatton (2013) have suggested that repeated reading is an evidence-based practice.   Most if not all of the researchers cited within this work discusses how effective repeated reading is for word recognition, fluency, and comprehension.  For example, What Works Clearing House based their conclusions about the effectiveness of repeated reading on two studies which met their criterion.  The larger study had students participating in a partner based repeated reading program and showed little to no statistical difference from the control group.  The smaller study had adults leading the repeated reading program, and they showed statistically significant gains compared to the control group. What Works Clearing House 2015 report that repeated reading has potentially positive effects on reading comprehension with no other discernable results.  This is as Therein 2004, would have predicted.  Repeated reading interventions using peer-to-peer modeling and error correction rather than adult lead interventions are far less likely to show significant improvements to reader’s fluency or comprehension.

Findings from meta-analytic studies are consistent in demonstrating the positive impact of RR on fluency and comprehension. A review by Kuhn & Stahl (2003), suggested that compared to other fluency interventions, the advantage of RR may not be as clear. However, it is necessary to explore the methodologies behind these studies to understand why certain studies find RR more effective than other interventions and others do not.  For example, done by Hawkins, Marsicano, Schmitt, McCallum & Musti-Rao (2015) reported that Listening-While-Reading is as effective in increasing fluency and comprehension as repeated reading.  While this is the case for the specific RR intervention used, the procedures used within the RR intervention followed almost none of the best practices recommended by the research.  First, passages were given at grade level rather than at the students’ instructional level making a lot of errors likely.  Second, every time the students made errors the instructor would say “Stop, The word is______” (pg.56.) and make the student repeated the word three times, likely disrupting the flow of reading.  Best practices would have been to correct the errors after the passage was fully read. Additionally, the students did not graph their progress, receive feedback on how they were doing, no positive praise for improvement, no prompts to read for fluency or comprehension were given, and no practice sounding out words with unfamiliar phonemes.   The differing components used within repeated reading interventions create difficulties for researchers attempting to discern how effective repeated reading is.

One advantage of meta-analytic studies is the “big picture” it affords; that is, it provides a measure of overall effects despite differences in treatment implementation (including subject populations, treatment length, or treatment procedures). Therein (2004), documented that RR is highly effective for increasing students fluency and comprehension when the RR interventions use best practices.  However, further work should be done to understand how variations in outcomes are linked to differences in RR intervention design and implementation.









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