The Importance of Readability

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In the article "Every Child, Every Day", Richard L. Allington and Rachael E. Gabriel share six elements of instruction that students should experience every day in the classroom. In their second point, they share that every child needs to read accurately, and the accuracy standard is pretty high:

Good readers read with accuracy almost all the time. The last 60 years of research on optimal text difficulty—a body of research that began with Betts (1949)—consistently demonstrates the importance of having students read texts they can read accurately and understand. In fact, research shows that reading at 98 percent or higher accuracy is essential for reading acceleration. Anything less slows the rate of improvement, and anything below 90 percent doesn't improve reading ability at all (Allington, 2012; Ehri, Dreyer, Flugman, & Gross, 2007).

Wow, 98 percent or higher accuracy is what it's going to take for our readers to experience accelerated reading growth! It is because this standard is so high that we no longer teach the five-finger rule. We rely on the I PICK method for choosing books because the number of words per page in the books our students read varies from 2 to 500, so the five-finger rule isn’t reliable enough. For example, see how well you can comprehend this paragraph when you miss five words (from page 6 of The Daily 5, second edition).

About thirty-five minutes have passed since the children left the room. We look up from our work to check the XXXX, glance toward the XXXX, and notice the beautiful day outside. We scan the room one more time to be certain all is ready for XXXX, grab our coats and keys, and head quickly to the door—still with enough daylight and enough energy for a long XXXX with the XXXX.

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t be able to give a meaningful retell of that paragraph. Missing five words puts us at 93 percent accuracy, which according to Allington and Gabriel is going to slow our rate of growth and is very close to prohibiting our improvement entirely.

Now let’s read it with 100 percent accuracy:

About thirty-five minutes have passed since the children left the room. We look up from our work to check the time, glance toward the window, and notice the beautiful day outside. We scan the room one more time to be certain all is ready for tomorrow, grab our coats and keys, and head quickly to the door—still with enough daylight and enough energy for a long walk with the dog.

Much better, right?

So let’s really empower students to choose books at their independent reading level with the I PICK method, and kiss that old five-finger rule goodbye.  

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