Reading & Literacy

Reading Expert: Free Reading Isn’t the Be All and End All

By Mary Ann Zehr — May 26, 2009 1 min read

What Michael L. Kamil, a reading researcher at Stanford University who was a guest on an EdWeek live chat today on adolescent literacy, has to say about free reading may surprise you. A transcript is now available.

Here was the question: “What is your opinion of allowing students time in class to read what they want, instead of following a rigid, prescribed reading plan?”

Kamil gave the following answer:

The research on free reading, reading practice, or recreational reading shows that having students read more does NOT lead to better reading. Instead it seems to show that good readers read a lot more than poor readers. Besides, the key to learning is not to read randomly but rather to obtain both organized and useful knowledge. ... If we believe it is important for students to learn mathematics, history, biology, etc., we have to direct students to read specific materials. As a supplement, with appropriate instruction and feedback, some choice in reading does help, but only with those two variables added in.

Readers, what are your observations about students’ free reading?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.