The Efficiency of Repeated Reading in Education

Subject: Education
Pages: 10
Words: 2775
Reading time:
11 min
Study level: PhD


Achieving grade-specific reading comprehension and fluency is among the essential skills that schoolchildren learn, although many experience difficulties with the task, either because of a disorder, a disability, or because they need more time and practice to master reading. Repeated reading (RR) is a method that can be used by educators to aid children in enhancing their reading abilities, which involves reading the same text several times until a student makes no mistakes while reading the passage. It can be combined with other methods such as tutoring sessions or listening and reading. This paper will examine quantitative studies that assess the efficiency of RR for different groups of students.

Repeated Reading

Helping students improve their reading skills is a complicated task that involves understanding the particularities of an issue, for example reading a foreign language text or having specific language impairment (SLI) can be a factor impairing the fluency, number of errors, and comprehension. In general, researchers such as Savaiano and Hatton (2013) and Escarpio and Barbetta (2016) suggest choosing a small passage, explaining the words that can be difficult to understand, reading it aloud and allowing the student to read the text themselves several times as the primary protocol for RR. The model is based on the studies that prove that children are able to retain more vocabulary words if they repeat them several times (Rohlfing, Ceurremans, & Horst, 2018). Additionally, when rereading, students have to encode less information with each repetition, which contributes towards the general comprehension of the text.

Studies Examining General Population

Before examining the effect that RR has on students with specific issues affecting their learning abilities, it is necessary to evaluate the impact of RR on the general population. Vadasy and Sanders (2008) developed a Quick Reads program that involves reading non-fiction texts of a student’s grade level repeatedly. The children from grades four and five, who had lower reading scores when compared to their classmates were involved in this yearlong study. Seventy students were divided into two groups – sample and control. The first one involved children working in pairs using RR and Quick Reads, and students in the latter group worked with a tutor.

Vadasy and Sanders (2008) report an improvement in children’s vocabulary, word comprehension, and passage comprehension. However, a notable exception is the lack of improvement in word-level comprehension. Additionally, the authors suggest that peer-assisted learning strategies (PALS) can also be applied as a part of RR and feedback provision. Since the study examined the long-term impact of RR, one can argue that this method is effective.

Error correction provided by a tutor or an adult helping a student is an integral part of the RR, although some researchers question its efficiency when compared to other methods. Hawkins, Marsicano, Schmitt, McCallum, and Musti-Rao (2015) conducted a similar experiment using RR, comparing it to listening-while-leading (LWR) technique, and evaluated the effect that the two had on the comprehension and maze accuracy, which is a timed recording of students’ responses, using the population of four fourth grade African-American students. The authors developed a twelve-week program with reading sessions either once or twice per week. The results indicate that the RR had a more significant impact of the fluency levels when compared to LWR. The authors also examined oral reading fluency (ORF) which improved during the LWR sessions as well.

The inclusion of corrective feedback in the RR sessions is a question that requires exploration, since it implies the use of more resources in regards to time and teaching personnel. Hence, it is necessary to clearly define if feedback in RR significantly improves the outcomes of the training or not. Sukhram and Monda‐Amaya (2017) examined students of the seventh grade who struggled with developing appropriate reading skills. Two main strategies were explored – RR and RR with feedback, and fluency as well as comprehension of the learners were measured to determine both narrative and expository capabilities of the schoolchildren.

The ANOVA and ANCOVA tests revealed that feedback improves the results of students more significantly when compared to RR. Since both interventions are effective, educators can choose to employ corrective feedback in cases where attention is required or if the students have significant issues with readings.

Hence, the evidence presented above suggests that RR is a good strategy for addressing reading difficulties, and it can be used in various designs based on the needs and the capabilities of a learning facility. Another study supporting this claim was conducted in Finland by Huemer, Aro, Landerl, and Lyytinen (2010) who recruited children from the fourth, fifth, and sixth grades. The children were perceived as bad readers, and the authors hypothesized that with appropriate training, the speed of text reading and fluency could be enhanced. Besides, Huem et al. (2010) employed switching replications design, which incorporated both sample and control groups undergoing the same training and syllable reading tests.

Groups A, with twenty members, and B with sixteen children were asked to read pseudowords that contained syllables familiar to the students. In general, the results suggest that this approach is effective in improving the overall speed of reading and fluency of pronunciation, but has little impact on improving the fluency of reading words with syllables that were not incorporated in the student learning program.

The examined studies provide an important implication for educational practitioners since they expose the resources, both in terms of time and personnel, needed for the RR when compared to other options. Additionally, Hawkins et al. (2015) prove that LWR can be more effective for ORF or for reading words without errors, suggesting that schools can target interventions based on the needs of their students, while Vadasy and Sanders’ (2008) Quick Reads can be used as a long-term program for students requiring assistance.

Hence, practitioners can use the results of these studies to promote academic skill improvement by choosing a time-efficient intervention, such as LWR. Similar to the approach that Hawkins et al. (2015) used, Korat (2009) employed CD storybooks to examine the impact of listening on the skill development of prekindergarten and kindergarten children. The three groups that the author evaluated studied according to the RR, standard program, or using a CD storybook. The results suggest that the CDs improve phonological awareness for both age groups, which indicates that this method can be used to help improve early childhood literacy.

It is evident that different researchers offer modifications of RR, such as Quick Reads, aiming to improve the initial design of this method. Therrien, Kirk, and Woods-Groves (2012) developed a Re-read-Adapt and Answer-Comprehend (RAAC) intervention that incorporates RR as well as answering the questions about the text aimed at improving the understanding of the passages. In their study, the authors compared RAAC to a similar method without RR. Within four months, the thirty participants of the study, who were students of grades third through fifth participated in fifty sessions. Therrien et al. (2012) report that both the sample group with RR and control had a significant enhancement of their reading results. One should note that the authors focused on text comprehension only, without assessments for reading fluency and errors. However, these findings suggest that there are more effective alternatives to RR.

Foreign language students

Students aiming to achieve fluency in a non-native language can struggle with comprehension as well, which can be addressed through RR sessions. Gorsuch and Taguchi (2008) and Webb and Chang (2012) developed studies that explored the implications of RR in the context of learning English for non-native speakers. The primary aim of these experiments was to determine if rereading texts helps foreign language learners to improve the pronunciation and comprehension of words. In their study, Webb and Chang (2012) examined Taiwanese students of fifteen or sixteen years old who were taking English classes and assigned them to groups that used either assisted or unassisted RR. Vocabulary learning was also used in this study since it is an important part of improving language understanding. The pre-intervention and post RR measurements were applied to examine the impact of assisted and unassisted practices.

While RR has been applied by educators for many years and the researchers have produced many studies suggesting its efficiency, the necessity to examine the aspects of RR’s design and different approaches, especially in the context of learning a foreign language, remains. Webb and Chang (2012) concluded that assisted learning has a more noticeable impact on the student’s vocabulary if compared to not assisted RR, although both methods produce improvements for learners.

One should note that the primary difficulty in developing learning comprehension of a foreign language is connected to the need to improve recognition of words, which is one of the aspects that RR targets. Gorsuch and Taguchi (2008) examined Vietnamese students learning English by conducting a quasi-experiment study. The results indicate a need to examine the implications of this methodology on the working memory, to improve the understanding of the concept.

Gorsuch and Taguchi (2008) found a lack of comprehension improvement within the examined group, suggesting that other approaches, for instance, vocabulary learning used by Webb and Chang (2012) must be incorporated in RR. However, reading fluency, meaning the accuracy of pronunciation and speed of recognizing words improved in the RR sample group of twenty-eight students when compared to the twenty-six individuals who were the control group.

Learning disabilities (LD)

LD is a variety of issues such as SLI, that obstruct students from benefiting from the use of standard teaching methods requiring additional attention from educators to achieve an adequate level of reading and comprehension. Since RR is effective in improving the skills of children that have lower reading capabilities when compared to peers, one can hypothesize that this method will be useful for addressing LD as well.

Studies by Hawkins, Hale, Sheeley, and Ling (2011) and Therrien and Hughes (2008) applied alternative treatment to test this implication. The first study examined high school students, who were divided into two groups, in grades ten and eleven, with reading abilities comparable to grades four and five. Hawkins et al. (2011) incorporated the previewing vocabulary (VP) method together with RR and found that the control group, which received no intervention showed significantly worse results on the reading tests. VP is applied to explain the unknown words to students as they read a text, to improve the comprehension. The results indicate that VP and RR are valid strategies for addressing reading issues in a population of students with LD.

Similarly to the studies conducted using a general population, educators working with students who have LD can employ different RR designs. Hawkins et al. (2011) tested three groups, control, RR, and RR with VP in sessions that occurred from three and up to five times per week lasting from ten to twenty minutes. To test the outcomes, the students read three passages ranging from seventy to one hundred words and answered three multiple-choice questions about the passages.

In order to pass the reading test, the participants had to make less than seven errors over the course of reading. Hawkins et al. (2011) argue that the results indicate that RR without VP has a significant impact on improving the student’s comprehension of the text. This is supported by the effect size data that the authors present. VP helped learners improve their oral comprehension, although it did not affect the main variables – reading comprehension and fluency. A study by Therrien and Hughes (2008) indicate similar results since students of fourth, fifth, and sixth grades with LD were enrolled in weekly RR sessions over two weeks. The thirty-two students showcased an improvement in reading familiar passages and understanding the instructions and factual information. However, the authors did not compare the outcomes of non-repeated oral reading to RR, which would provide more insight into understanding the benefits of the latter.

Cognitive disabilities

The traditional educational practices developed for individuals with learning disabilities target the development of practical skills, with the omission of essential aspects of learning such as reading. Hua, Hendrickson, Therrien, Woods-Groves, Ries, and Shaw (2012) argue that such focus has a negative impact on all domains of a person’s life and suggest RR as a strategy for overcoming reading problems within this population. In their experiment, the authors aimed to test the reading proficiency of students with cognitive disabilities and determine whether RR helps improve this aspect of learning.

The three participants read daffiness passages written for grade levels one, two, and six. The RRAC procedure was applied with several questions for each passage and a checklist. Hua et al. (2012) state that the outcomes for all participants were positive since improvements were made within all the controlled variables such as ORF and correct words per minute (CWPM). Hence, this study, similarly to those examined in the passage about LD suggest the RR has a beneficial impact on students with various disabilities.

Emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD)

Individuals who have EBD experience issues in different domains of education. Escarpio and Barbetta (2016) aimed to develop a strategy for addressing the reading problems of such children by conducting a study that evaluates the effect of RR on 6th-grade students. The results did not show significant improvement but indicated positive changes for all the student who participates in regards to the measured variables such as reading fluency and number of errors.

Escarpio and Barbetta (2016) also compared RR to non-repeated reading by examining the results of children who read text ranging from 100 to 150 words and 300 to 450 words. The sessions were carried out by teachers, and the RR involved reading the same passage three times. Despite the fact that all the participants had varied outcomes in regards to their fluency, the data suggest that RR is a superior approach when working with children who have EDB.

Visual impairment

Children who are diagnosed with visual impairment may require either additional support, for example reading glasses or larger print, to be able to read a passage. However, Savaiano and Hatton (2013) tested the claim that RR can be applied to improve the reading measures of these children, by examining the oral reading rate as well as the text comprehension of children in grades three to six. Two of the experiment’s participants were using reading glasses routinely.

The tutors provided instructions for the children, and the researchers used a questionnaire to determine if RR altered the participant’s attitudes towards reading. The findings suggest that a functional relationship between RR, oral reading, and comprehension exists, suggesting a positive impact of the methodology of children’s ability to read. However, this study produced some conflicting results for two out of the three participants, which should be considered when designing similar interventions for children with visual impairment.

Other risk factors

SLI affects a child’s ability to understand the reading material or learn subjects such as math. Rohlfing, Ceurremans, and Horst (2018) aimed to examine whether RR can help overcome the issues associated with SLI, by examining sixteen children, eight diagnosed with learning disability and a control group from Germany. The researchers help three at-home sessions for the children, during which they listened to a text narration, and the examiner repeated the names of objects several times.

Each story was recited three times, and identified words were repeated four times. The primary measures were retention and recall, which were tested after each session, and the outcomes suggest that both the sample and the control group had an improved understanding of the words, despite the fact that children with SLI showed worse results when compared to their peers. Hence, even though SLI is a severe issue that has a direct impact on learning outcomes, RR is a method that has the potential for significantly improving the children’s reading comprehension.


Overall, the studies on RR provide an understanding that this method helps improve the reading capabilities of students. The specifics of RR’s design suggest that it can incorporate error correction or corrective feedback, which improves the text comprehension of the learners. Some researchers tested RR for comprehension enhancement using RAAC design and found that non-repeated reading with RAAC can be as effective in improving student’s understanding of a text as RR.

Additionally, this model is helpful when teaching a foreign language since it affects the speed and accuracy of the reading. However, vocabulary learning or another similar method should be used to improve word understanding as well. Finally, RR helps aid students with disabilities, such as SLI or a visual impairment, because the studies indicate that it positively impacts fluency and comprehension. Educators can choose from different RR designs and approaches, depending on the specifics of the learners and their needs to improve reading.


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