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31 Jan 2014

The Forgotten Reading Proficiency: Stamina in Silent Reading

Elfrieda H. Hiebert

Book Chapter
Submitted for Publication

Hiebert, E.H. (March, 2014). The Forgotten Reading Proficiency: Stamina in Silent Reading. In E.H. Hiebert (Ed.), Stamina, Silent Reading, & the Common Core State Standards. Santa Cruz, CA: TextProject.

The Forgotten Reading Proficiency cover

The new assessments developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) to align with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS; NGA Center for Best Practices & CCSSO, 2010a) require all but the most severely disabled students to read and respond to texts in a digital context. Beginning in third grade, students are expected to read the texts silently and for extensive periods of time (see Table 1). And, unlike their experiences with typical classroom reading assignments, students will have no access to teachers to present a first-read or to help them by scaffolding a section of text, monitoring their reading, or advising them when it is time to start answering questions or writing responses.

Of course, extended silent reading is not a requirement limited to the new CCSS-related assessments. For the tasks of college, citizenry, and the workplace, we most often must read silently on our own for sustained periods of time. The choice made by the design teams of the two assessment consortia to have students, even as early as grade 3, do the same is intended to ensure that our students are prepared to accomplish these college and career tasks with proficiency.

This said, we need to acknowledge that the demands of the new assessments will pose a challenge for many students. The reason for this challenge is not—as pundits and observers of education frequently suggest—that American students cannot read. Indeed, most American students can read. What many cannot do is independently maintain reading focus over long periods of time. The proficiency they lack is stamina—the ability to sustain mental effort without the scaffolds or adult supports.

In this chapter, I provide an overview for each of the topics addressed in the three sections of this book: (a) stamina is a major challenge for many American students, (b) silent reading proficiency depends on extensive reading opportunities, and (c) appropriate instructional applications can increase students’ silent reading proficiency. First, however, I identify and define the constructs that are the foci of all the work in this book—silent reading, comprehension-based silent reading rate, and the role of oral reading (including oral reading of instructional texts by teachers).