See reviews of previous chapters of the SSR Handbook by Janice Pilgreen at the Books that leave an impression page. Chapter 4 of the SSR Handbook details the study completed by Pilgreen. Pilgreen lays out a simple way that any teacher can replicate to insure that a reading program accomplishes the intended goals.
Pilgreen’s study used students from her school’s ESL program and the ESL program of another nearby school. Her program included all 8 of the factors that have been shown to create success in a reading program while the comparison school used some of the factors fully and some partially.
This means in her program students had access to numerous titles, dedicated efforts to find appealing titles for students, a comfortable and consistent reading environment, multiple moments of encouragement, multiple sessions of staff training, non-accountability with multiple opportunities and ways for students to respond to what they read on a regular basis and distributed class time for reading. In her study, Pilgreen’s students started each class with 12-15 minutes of reading per day.
The comparison school’s reading program offered strong support for appeal, a conducive environment, non accountability and distributed time to read. Staff were trained but with little follow up. Students had quite a bit of access but mostly in the classroom or the school library so there were some limits to access. Encouragement was offered but in similar and repeated ways. For example, not all teachers modeled reading for students. Lastly, the comparison school did not offer students opportunities to respond to what they were reading.
Pilgreen states her goals for the study on page 39:
- improved reading comprehension
- greater enjoyment of pleasure reading
- more frequent engagement in outside pleasure reading
- utilization of a wider range of pleasure-reading resources
Both schools improved reading comprehension scores and as predicted, Pilgreen’s program with a commitment to all 8 factors showed a higher gain in reading comprehension. Both schools improved in students enjoyment of pleasure reading as assessed by a Student Attitude survey. Once again, Pilgreen’s group saw higher gains.
Interestingly, Pilgreen’s school showed an increase in more frequent engagement in outside pleasure reading but the comparison school showed a decline. At the minimum, there seems to be a correlation to the amount of accessibility of reading materials at each program with this data. Lastly, both schools show students increased the variety of their reading sources, once again with Pilgreen’s school showing higher gains.
Pilgreen ends the chapter with thoughts about the implications of the study. She states, “In my view, how students feel about reading is the most important concern of teachers who are starting a new SSR program. Once students actually start to enjoy reading on a regular basis, reading comprehension logically develops” on page 41. There seems to be an obvious which comes first, the chicken or the egg, type of problem here but I’m also convinced that one of my major goals as an educator is to offer as much encouragement, opportunity and consistency to guide students to enjoy reading. What other items that are in our control can affect their lives outside of our school buildings as much? The more they can comprehend, the more adaptable they will become as workers and citizens later in life.
Does the data prove that reading for enjoyment increases overall reading comprehension? Probably not, but the worst thing that will happen if reading for enjoyment isn’t a strong causation of reading comprehension is that there will be more people reading more because they want to read more. Consider some of the things that people do in our world in 2019… More people reading more sounds good to me.
Pilgreen’s 8 factors for success in a reading program are the standard for success. Add the SSR Handbook to your professional library and be amazed by your students as they find their inner readers simply by implementing the work Pilgreen has done for you.