One of the most surprising findings of classroom research of the 1970s and '80s was the small amount of time that children spent actually reading texts.
Perhaps the most sweeping changes in reading instruction in the last 15 years are in the area of comprehension.
Once thought of as the natural result of decoding plus oral language, comprehension is now viewed as a much more complex process involving knowledge, experience, thinking, and teaching.
Teachers can increase the likelihood that more time for contextual reading will translate into improved comprehension skills in the following ways.
Research from the 1980s indicated that in traditional reading classrooms, time for comprehension instruction was as rare as time for actual text reading.
1988) may be largely attributable to the knowledge base that grows through text reading. A newer, more compelling argument is that the differing amounts of time teachers give students to read texts accounts for the widening gaps between more able and less able readers throughout the school grades (Allington 1983b, Stanovich 1986).
Recent research has debunked the misconception that only already-able readers can benefit from time spent in actual text reading, while less able readers should spend time on isolated skills instruction and workbook practice (Anderson et al. How much time should be devoted to actual text reading? Research of the late 1970s and early '80s consistently revealed a strong reciprocal relationship between prior knowledge and reading comprehension ability. “Effectiveness of a Direct Instruction Paradigm for Teaching Main Idea Comprehension.” Reading Research Quarterly 20: 93–108. The more one already knows, the more one comprehends; and the more one comprehends, the more one learns new knowledge to enable comprehension of an even greater and broader array of topics and texts. As in sports and music, practice makes perfect in reading, too. “Research on Response to Literature.” In Handbook of Reading Research: Vol. Second, reading results in the acquisition of new knowledge, which, in turn, fuels the comprehension process. It depends heavily on knowledge—both about the world at large and the worlds of language and print. Comprehension inherently involves inferential and evaluative thinking, not just literal reproduction of the author's words. Two years ago we reviewed the most recent research about comprehension instruction (Pearson and Fielding 1991). In response to Durkin's findings, much research in the 1980s was devoted to discovering how to teach comprehension strategies directly. In the typical study of this type, readers were directly taught how to perform a strategy that skilled readers used during reading. At present research offers no answers, but we recommend that, of the time set aside for reading instruction, students should have more time to read than the combined total allocated for learning about reading and talking or writing about what has been read. “Does Text Structure/Summarization Instruction Facilitate Learning From Expository Text? The equivocal results of sustained silent reading programs throughout the years (Manning and Manning 1984) suggest, though, that simply allocating time is not enough.