Repeated Reading



Empirical Studies of Repeated Reading

Studies specifically addressing repeated reading outcomes since 1979 have number over hundreds, with countless others either using it as a method or just mentioning it as a method  for effective reading without focusing on the intervention itself. There were more than 200 reviews of repeated reading interventions that have appeared in the literature since that time (Meyer & Felton, 1999; Kuhn & Stahl, 2003), including multiple meta-analyses (NRP, 2000; Chard, Vaughn, & Tyler, 2002; Therrien, 2004; Morgan & Sideridis, 2006). The following review begins with the meta-analyses as support of RR. Then, individual studies are reviewed to examine more closely the variability across studies in an attempt to identify the most promising applications and delineate gaps in our current knowledge

Two search strategies were used to locate studies. First, primary searches were done through ERIC, Education Abstracts, Dissertations Online and Dissertation Abstracts. Second, the reference section of every article retrieved was examined for additional articles missed through direct search. Search terms were initially entered using the keywords: Repeated reading AND Evidence-based practiced. This turned up over a hundred articles. Based on these articles, the literature is relatively evenly split between those saying RR is an evidence-based practice, RR might be an evidence-based practice but other interventions just as effective, and those saying there is not enough high-quality research to support RR as an evidence-based practice at this time. All of those researchers may be right in their own way, even though they appear to be making contradictory statements. These articles are discussed further according to the sub-headings below.

Research Supporting Repeated Reading

Repeatedly reading a short text helps students improve their reading speed, accuracy, and expression (Samuels, 1979). Samuels (1979) stated,

“Repeated reading is a meaningful task in that the students are reading interesting material in context. Comprehension may be poor with the first reading of the text, but with each additional rereading, the student is better able to comprehend because the decoding barrier to comprehension is gradually overcome. As less attention is required for decoding, more attention comes available for comprehension. Thus, repeated reading both builds fluency and enhances comprehension.” (p. 378)

Daly, Chafouleas, and Skinner (2005) described Repeated Readings (RR) as one of the best options for targeting reading fluency because of the practice time it provides. RR is an intervention with well documented effectiveness with native English speakers in both general education and special education settings (Dowhower, 1987; Hapstak & Tracey, 2007; Nelson et al., 2004; Paige, 2006; Sindelar et al., 1990).

A meta-analysis of RR studies conducted by Therrien (2004) showed that RR can produce gains in both reading fluency and comprehension for a wide variety of students, both with and without disabilities. Gains in fluency were generally greater than gains in comprehension. Peer-mediated interventions also have been shown to be effective in improving fluency (Musti- Rao et al., 2009; Mathes & Fuchs, 1993), but Therrien’s review found that gains in both fluency and comprehension were increased when RR was conducted with an adult rather than a peer. These improvements also have been shown to transfer to overall reading ability (effects are not limited to practiced passages; e.g., Dowhower, 1987; Taguchi, 1997).

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. Their study of 278 fifth graders from 13 classrooms located in a mid-Atlantic state utilized the Gates MacGinitie Reading Comprehension test in conjunction with the Inference 40 Assessment, Woodcock-Johnson III Reading Fluency Test, and Passage Oral Reading Assessment. While the design of the study was to determine if there was a difference between each category, the results noted that overall students with high comprehension scores were strong in all three areas of fluency. Klauda and Guthrie (2008) stated that with their research design, they could effectively isolate outside factors and create a study that looks closely at the correlation of word, syntax, and passage fluency. This study revealed that word and syntax did relate to automaticity theory and therefore gave more cognitive ability to relate to background knowledge and inference. It was also determined that this was true for passage-level fluency.

Research Presenting Mixed Results on Repeated Reading

The National Reading Panel’s Report (NICHD, 2000) provided a review of the research on repeated reading. The report utilized 16 studies utilizing a pre and posttest which provided the opportunity to analyze improvement or lack thereof in reading utilizing guided repeated reading. Due to the design of the study, two were dropped from the findings. The studies included control groups which allowed for the contribution of guided repeated reading to be measured. The analysis included a total of 605 combined subjects ranging from elementary age to secondary students. With a few omissions, there was a total of 99 effect sizes used to compare control and experimental group performance. The studies using normal classroom populations had a grade range of 2-5, while studies that focused on poor readers ranged from second through ninth grade. The analysis revealed that in all but two of the studies, there were significant differences for the guided repeated reading group compared to the control group. There was a large range in the effect size from 0.05 to 1.48. The National Reading Report contributed this to a large discrepancy in the reported data ranging from a low of 12 subjects to as many as 78. Using a weighted average, the effect size was 0.41. While many of the studies from the National Reading Report analysis focused on poor readers (398 students), causation of increased fluency in only poor readers could not be significantly identified. The National Reading Report (NRP) stated that fluency should be viewed as developmental.

Chard et al. (2002) performed one such meta-analysis of reading fluency interventions with children with learning disabilities, including several that used the RR procedure. Unlike the NRP analysis, only RR studies with a sample described as students with learning disabilities (LD) were used, for a total of 21. For studies using RR without a model, results indicated treatment effect sizes ranging from d =.02 to 3.02, with an average of d =.68 (Chard et al., 2002). Again, this suggests that on average, RR exerted a moderate effect on reading rate and accuracy for students in the included studies.

The researchers Kuhn and Stahl (2003) studied outcomes for 21 quantitative RR studies with children that were conducted during the 1980’s to 2016. When comparing RR studies to some assisted-reading approaches (i.e., those that used a modeling component, such as reading along while listening to a tape or choral reading), they found mainly positive effects for repetition. When compared to non-repetitive approaches such as, however, RR did not appear to yield significantly higher gains. Kuhn and Stahl argued that it still was not clear whether gains from these interventions were due to repetitive reading or the increased exposure and practice which could occur without repetitive passages. Kuhn and Stahl (2003) also contended that interventions with a modeling and feedback component were more effective than those without.

A meta-analysis for older students with reading disabilities conducted by the Center for Instruction suggested that focusing on fluency has limited gains in comprehension. It specifically noted that students may still gain from fluency instruction with the use of another method. Standard measures showed no statistically difference used in the studies (Scammacca et al., 2007). This was also supported by a study conducted by Spencer and Manis (2010) for students with severe reading deficits in two middle schools located in the outskirts of a large urban city on the west coast. Participants were 17 girls and 43 boys in Grades 6-8 ranging in age from 10 to 15. Students were enrolled in self-contained special education classrooms with severe learning disabilities. The students were the most severely delayed readers in the school. Students were given a pre and posttest assessment using a series of tests such as the Woodcock Johnson III, Gray Oral Reading Test, and Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children IV. The experimental group utilized the Great Leaps program focusing on fluency while the control group received study skills. While the study showed that fluency increased, there were no statistically measurable indicators of improvement in the area of comprehension. These researchers did note that the severe nature of the reading difficulties associated with this study may have been an outlier in the research. Thus, research has shown statistical gains as well as supporting the idea that fluency for older readers does not make a significant impact.

In summary, research presenting mixed results on repeated reading suggested that while RR did yield gains in fluency and comprehension, it could not be said with certainly that it represented a superior method over other fluency interventions, such as simple practice, skill training, or other rate-based approaches. This echoes the findings of Homan et al. (1993), who compared the effects of repeated and non-repeated interventions on 26 children over seven weeks and found no significant difference between gains made in either condition. In other words, children increased their comprehension and fluency regardless of whether repetition was used or not.

Most Effective and Ineffective Components of Repeated Reading Programs

Most Effective Components.

One of the most effective components of repeated reading programs is to provide the student with a fluent model of a passage before asking the student to read the same passage aloud. This fluent model can be a live model (Rasinski, 1990; Rose & Sherry, 1984; Skinner et al., 1997) or an audio recording (Daly & Martens, 1994; Lionetti & Cole, 2004). Such modeling is found in the literature as a stand-alone intervention before fluency assessment (Rose, 2001; Daly & Martens, 1994; Lionetti & Cole, 2004; Rasinski, 1990) or combined with RR (Hapstak & Tracey, 2007; Dowhower, 1987; Begeny & Silber, 2006).

Thus, it appears that repeated readings with modeling (when the word or passage is read to the student by the instructor, often before the student reads the passage independently) may be more effective than repeated reading with no modeling (Kuhn & Stahl, 2003). Also, graphing students results and peer-to-peer RR interventions seemed largely be ineffective (Rose & Beattie, 1986). Therefore improvements in fluency that are seen with repeated readings may be a result of additional practice rather than to repetition of the same material per se (Rashotte & Torgesen, 1985).

Rose (2001) compared two forms of pre-reading activities, silent and listening preview, and found that both were better than no preview, but listening to a model was associated with higher fluency. Daly and Martens (1994) compared a listening passage preview intervention (LPP), in which students were asked to silently read along with an audiotape of the passage before being assessed for fluency on that passage and a word list, with silent previewing and taped words previewing. They found that LPP, in which the passage was read at about 130 words per minute, produced the greatest immediate gains in accuracy and fluency.

Lionetti and Cole (2004) also used taped previewing in an intervention they called listening while reading (LWR). They compared two different rates of LWR and found that both increased fluency but not comprehension. Contrary to their expectations, a slower model (approximately equal to the student’s current rate) did not lead to greater improvements than a faster model (about 20% faster than the student’s current rate).

Rasinski (1990) found that repeated LWR with a live, teacher model produced gains in reading fluency equal to the gains produced by RR. Rose and Sherry (1984) compared listening preview with a live, teacher model to silent previewing, and found that both previewing interventions generally increased fluency, with listening previewing producing greater results.

Skinner, Cooper, and Cole (1997) also found that live model previewing was superior to silent previewing. Additionally, they compared two rates of previewing and found that slower modeling (about 50 words per minute) resulted in greater student fluency than rapid modeling (the experimenter’s natural rate).  Similarly, Skinner et al. (1993) found that slow rates of listening previewing (22.5% faster than students’ rates) were superior to fast rates (77.5% faster than students’ rates) in reducing student errors. These findings conflict with the finding by Lionetti and Cole (2004) of no significant differences between two LWR rates. Rate of modeling can be varied not only by the speed of reading an entire passage, but also by varying how much of a passage is read by the adult model before the student is asked to read the same text. In Echo Reading, which is also used to improve reading fluency, the teacher first reads a single sentence or phrase (as short as is necessary for the student to successfully imitate the model), then has the student echo that phrase, repeating the procedure until the entire passage is read (Anderson, 1981).

Ineffective Components

No error correction is an ineffective components of RR. Error correction procedures are important and may be included in RR intervention packages so that students practice correct reading rather than errors. Alber-Morgan, Ramp, Anderson, and Martin (2007) found that a RR intervention which incorporated performance feedback and error correction decreased errors for all four middle school students in the study and increased fluency for three. Systematic error correction during oral reading is not enough on its own, however; Nelson, Alber, and Gordy (2004) compared RR with error correction to error correction alone and found that, although both interventions decreased errors, only RR with error correction increased fluency. Based on this meta-analysis, Therrien recommended that when RRs are intended to increase overall reading performance, essential components of RR include reading aloud, reading to an adult who corrects word errors, and reading until a performance criterion is reached.

Similarly, the analysis by Morgan and Sideridis (2006) of 30 single-subject studies from the late 1970s to 2004 found RR, along with tutoring, keywords, and previewing, exerted a moderate impact on fluency (d = .931). They also concluded that the addition of a goal-setting component might be an effective add-on to the basic RR intervention (d = 1.452) (Morgan & Sideridis, 2006).

Analysis of the General Effectiveness of RR Components

As demonstrated in this review, there are components of RR which make it more effective than others.  Identifying these most effective components constitutes “best practice” when using the RR intervention in teachers own 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. If a criterion-based approach is used, best practice would be to set the criterion according to the 50th percentile in published norms for the child’s grade, such as done in Therrien et al. (2006), though in reality, studies using arbitrarily-chosen criterions of 85 to 100 cwpm have been almost universally positive. When fixed trials 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.

In terms of procedure, the basic RR intervention may be supplemented by either providing a model before the passage is read, a feedback component during reading, or both. In the case of the latter, feedback may be provided in the form of error correction (i.e. corrective feedback), or performance feedback. The outcome data on the use of corrective feedback appears most clear, in that such feedback may yield better gains (Therrien, 2004). In fact, Therrien (2004) found that the effect sizes were much greater for children in studies where feedback was used, a difference between an ES of .51 and .46. Effect sizes for children in studies using adult corrective feedback (as opposed to peer) were even greater, at 1.37 (Therrien, 2004). In the absence of correction, a child will likely commit the same error over and over again, lest they suddenly catch it on their own. Thus, the use of corrective feedback, and especially that provided by an adult, appears to be a logical modification to the basic method.

The report of the National Reading Panel (NICHD & NIH, 2000) identified that guided repeated reading instruction as one of the two most typical methods. Such instruction “had a consistent, and positive impact on word recognition, fluency, and comprehension as measured by a variety of test instruments and at a range of grade levels” (p. 3-3). The National Reading Panel of NICHD & NIH identified 364 studies related to the effects of guided oral reading instructions. From these, the reading panel conducted a meta-analysis of sixteen studies which covered 398 struggling readers and 281 efficient readers. They concluded that “Guided repeated oral reading and repeated reading provide students with practice that substantially improves word recognition, fluency, and—to a lesser extent—reading comprehension” (p. 3-20).

In terms of materials, best practice seems to involve instructional-level materials that are carefully chosen for their consistency (Samuels, 1997). Ideally, these materials should have many words in common, resulting in repeated exposure over the course of intervention (Samuels, 2012). Finally, daily sessions should constitute about fifteen minutes of total reading time to avoid fatigue (Samuels, 1994).

On the other hand, some repeated reading interventions are ineffective or just less effective than others because of the components they utilize (Daly et al., 2002; Begeny et al., 2006; Begeny & Martens, 2006). These studies examined whether a student would benefit more from a simple intervention such as repeated readings, or a more complex intervention featuring multiple components. These components may be forms of errors correction, types of reinforcers, modeling, or something else entirely.

Daly et al. (2002) compared different individual intervention components as well as the combination of some of these components. Several conditions were used including repeated reading (RR), listening passage preview (LPP)/RR, easier materials (EM), EM/LPP/RR, phrase drill (PD), sequential modification (SM), word lists (WL), and contingent reward (CR). When an intervention uses LPP, the reading passage is first modeled for the student by the instructor. The result showed at least one condition was effective for each participant. Treatment packages showed significant effects for participants overall. Effect’s on errors was not as significant. For most of the participants, adding rewards appeared to increase performance level and a small time period (Daly et al., 2002)

Begeny et al. (2006) compared a repeated readings intervention with an error correction intervention and a reward intervention. After baseline, the student received intervention in three different treatment conditions: repeated readings (RR), phrase-drill with error correction (PD) and reward (RE). Results showed that both the repeated readings and phrase drill interventions demonstrated an increase in fluency over the baseline and reward conditions. The reward condition was only minimally effective over the baseline. The phrase drill condition resulted in the most improvement in accuracy (Begeny et al., 2006).

Begeny and Martens (2006) examined the effect of a group reading fluency intervention which incorporated several intervention components: repeated readings, practicing words in isolation, phrase drill, listening passage preview (LPP), comprehension (maze passages) and a reward component. Comprehension improved during intervention over baseline as measured by the maze procedure. Intervention increased WCPM significantly for both groups as students read more words correct during intervention than they did during baseline, and it also increased more during the second phase of treatment versus the first phase (Begeny & Martens, 2006).



Findings from studies reviewed above are not consistent in demonstrating RR as evidence-based practice. Hence, the reviewer conclude based on the literature reviewed above, more studies are saying RR is an evidence-based practice, some are saying RR might be an evidence-based practice but other interventions just as effective, and few are saying there is not enough high-quality research to support RR as an evidence-based practice at this time. All of those researchers may be right in their own way, even though they appear to be making contradictory statements. 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.  Additionally, the differing components used within RR interventions create difficulties for researchers attempting to discern how effective RR is. Thus, more evidence-based work needs to be done to understand how variations in outcomes are linked to differences in RR intervention design, implementation, and outcome.



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