How much time spent reading do children need? The exact amount of time is hard to determine. There is no agreed upon standard of measurement because the amount changes across developmental stages. The optimal amount of time spent reading is often measured in the following ways:
- minutes of time spent reading
- number of words read
- pages read
- books read
Regardless of how the amount is measured, there is a strong relationship between volume and achievement. As you would expect, children whose reading skills are behind their peers read far less than the higher-achieving peers. The volume of daily reading is below an optimum level for many children.
Neuroscientist Sally Shaywitz presents noteworthy statistics about the benefits of reading a minimum of 20 minutes/day in her book, Overcoming Dyslexia. Her case for why a child should read 20 minutes a day is outlined in the table below:
|Student A||Student B||Student C|
|20 minutes/day||5 minutes/day||1 minute/day|
|3600 minutes/school year||900 minutes/school year||180 minutes/school year|
|90th percentile||50th percentile||10th percentile|
The Cumulative Effect:
By the end of sixth grade Student “A” reads the equivalent of 60 whole school days. Student “B” reads only 12 school days. It takes Student “C” a year to read as many words as what a good reader does in two days. Student “A” develops a wider reading vocabulary that continues to expand and improves comprehension skills. Books offer almost three times as many interesting or complicated words outside the general vocabulary of a sixth grader, compared to even the most educated speakers. Simply relying on conversation to increase vocabulary falls short of what can be gained through reading.
The 20 minute rule does not apply to the early beginning reader. In the initial stages, children cannot actually read very much and the supply of books they can manage successfully is limited. Young children also read much more slowly than older, more experienced readers. But children benefit from reading with a parent. The child can read a short book, then listen to a read aloud or picture book with a parent. The blossoming reader can hear a fluent reader and build vocabulary.
A student’s future is well worth 20 minutes a day!
Contributed by Dr. Jan Kirkland, Literacy Specialist, Fairhill School