Repeated Reading Strengthens Children’s Reading Skills

by CMDS Connections Team

We often assign stories to be reread – and reread – at home. We’re not trying to torture our wonderful CMDS parents, but we are trying to strengthen your children’s reading performance through repeated reading.

Reading skills taught in class will vanish like doughnuts in the teachers’ lounge if those skills are not practiced repeatedly. After a week of no reading practice at all, 90 to 100 percent of new skills could be lost!

Research – as well as our teaching experience – shows that reading comprehension skills get the biggest payoff from repeated reading. Here’s why.

Comprehension, Expression and a Mental Picture

As children read new passages, those little brains work hard to recall and apply word attack skills they have (hopefully) learned in class. However, figuring out those words (i.e. decoding) takes up a lot of brainpower. As Dr. Timothy Shanahan puts it, “We only have so much thinking space available. The more cognitive space devoted to figuring out words, the less available to grasp the text’s meaning.”

One way to shift more brainpower to comprehension is through repeated reading. The more a child reads a passage, the more automatically he or she can decode words. If a reader can figure out words accurately and effortlessly, then more of the brain is available to interpret what is being read.

Another perk of repeated reading is that children develop phrasing and expression that is appropriate for the text. Reading that sounds more like normal spoken language, instead of like Alexa or Siri, helps children more easily make sense of the words.

Spelling gets a bonus from repeated reading as well. We use various techniques to help children create mental pictures of words themselves. When children say words during reading, they are strengthening those mental images of the letters in the words. Pulling up the mental word snapshots can support all writing, not just the Friday spelling test.

There is another kind of mental picture, too. More like a movie. As anyone reads, they make a mental panorama of what they see the text meaning. Ideally, this is done spontaneously, and the reader draws on this to explain what they read. Sometimes, though, a student reads like the wind, but is not able to explain what he or she has read. Repeated reading gives the opportunity to stop after sections of a passage and create mental pictures that aid recall and understanding.

So, When Is Enough Repeated Reading Enough?

Three to five repetitions are recommended. Now, let’s take the pain out of that prescription with these guidelines.

  • Use your judgment as to how much text your child can read independently in one sitting. This can vary from an entire story to one page to one paragraph.
  • Practice that same passage daily, increasing what can be read if possible. You can read the remainder of the story to your child, with your child, or you can take turns reading as your child follows along.
  • If you have more stories assigned during the week, work out the best plan for your child – independent reading or shared reading with you. Still work with your child on the one passage chosen at the beginning of the week for oral reading practice.
  • The first time you have a selection, let your child follow along as you read the text so that they can hear how the language should sound. You could record your reading of the passage, and your child could read along with it. Let your child record his or her readings of the same passage to hear progress. Our budding performers love to use the Photo Booth video recording on the teachers’ MacBooks.
  • When your child reads, correct misread words, even the little ones.
  • Spread the practice out over several days.
  • Yep, ‘use or lose it’ is true. And repeated reading is one way to keep attrition at bay for all readers. Regardless of their skill level, students show improved reading ability with repeated reading. Try it!
Happy Reading from your CMDS Connections Team!
Ginger Chamberlain, Nat Hatch, Linda May and Margaret Patterson

Christ Methodist Day School opened its doors in 1958 to 75 kindergarten students. Since then, CMDS has stayed true to its Christian elementary school roots while continuing to thrive as one of the best private schools in Memphis. Come see why we are the primary choice for so many Memphis families.



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