What Inspires Students to Love Reading? (Part 2)

Volume of Reading Types and How to Best Implement Them

By David Liben


In Part 1 of this blog series, we discussed the definition of volume of reading as well as why volume of reading is critical to building students’ vocabulary, literacy skills, and knowledge of the world around them.

With this in mind, let’s look at the different forms of volume of reading, beginning with the most common, and what most people think of when they hear this term.


What are the different types of volume of reading?

girl laughing and looking left

1. Free choice independent reading or Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) has been around for decades. It largely replaced its predecessor, Uninterrupted Sustained Silent Reading (USSR). The National Reading Panel, after reviewing hundreds of studies in 2000, was unable to find any research supporting the use of free choice independent reading. This finding was controversial at the time and still is. Some researchers feel strongly that free choice independent reading is effective, and others feel it is not. But free choice independent reading by definition will not lead to every student reading a series of texts on a topic, and thus will not maximize the vocabulary and knowledge growth our striving readers need.

2. Text sets constitute an approach that has recently gained in popularity, and a quick online search will show several sources for what they are and how to use them. A text set can be a series of texts on a topic as described in the work of Cervetti, Wright, and Hwang. To maximize vocabulary and knowledge growth, however, the text sets must focus on topics, such as the American Revolution, and not on themes, such as “Community.” As seen in the sea mammal example and in the CORI work, topics provide the knowledge that facilitates the learning of new words. Themes such as friendship, discoveries, and families jump around too much to provide this support. A text set on friendship could include one text about a girl making a new friend in China and another text about two friends in Boston who are moving apart. Knowledge is not built up and carried from text to text in the same way as it is with topics as evidenced in the CORI work.

3. A possibly under-appreciated approach to a volume of reading is a full-length nonfiction or fictional text connected to a topic being studied. In a unit on immigration, students could choose from a variety of texts at different levels: informational texts about famous immigrants, novels about immigrant families, and autobiographies. Whether informational or literary, complete works connected to the topic will reinforce and expand students’ knowledge, which in turn will support greater vocabulary growth. A variety of text levels is necessary as students at a variety of reading levels will need to comprehend the texts. But at the same time, students will be growing topic knowledge as part of the unit, which will facilitate comprehension of more complex text. It is important to understand here that all students should still be reading grade-level complex text on a regular basis through close reading. It is the volume of reading, however, that by far provides the greatest growth in vocabulary and knowledge.


How can educators implement a volume of reading into their classroom?

Of late we are hearing much about blended and personalized learning. Currently we have no research attesting to the efficacy of these approaches. As shown here, we do have research about the potency of volume of reading. But blended and personalized learning do have the potential to expand or enrich any curriculum that has built-in volume of reading—such as Wit & Wisdom®, the K–8 ELA curriculum from Great Minds®. By expanding access to a greater number and variety of texts, these approaches might allow the texts students read to support a core curriculum that is truly personalized as opposed to only a variety of complexity levels.

In Part 1 of this series, I noted that the purpose of volume of reading is to grow vocabulary as well as knowledge. By great good fortune, it turns out the best way to grow vocabulary is to grow knowledge! Knowledge and vocabulary are intimately entwined as they support and reinforce each other. Until recently, this understanding has sadly eluded people who have developed Core ELA programs. This is no longer true, and we now have a number of Core ELA programs that accomplish this dual goal.

Wit & Wisdom is designed to build students’ knowledge about important topics as they interact with complex texts and thus to increase students’ reading, writing, speaking, listening, and vocabulary skills. In the early grades, Wit & Wisdom classrooms incorporate read alouds and many other strategies to build students’ knowledge on various topics. And the new Geodes Readable Library from Great Minds is designed to do the same with guided and independent reading. To see how Wit & Wisdom's thoughtfully curated, knowledge-rich core texts and volume of reading lists are engaging students at all levels, explore these case studies.

Additionally, to hear more about volume of reading and how to best implement it, watch the online webinar hosted by David Liben of Student Achievement Partners and Rachel Stack of Great Minds.



David Liben

Senior Fellow at Student Achievement Partners

David Liben is a senior fellow in the area of literacy and English language arts (ELA) at Student Achievement Partners. David has taught elementary, middle, and high school students in public and private schools as well as community college and has taught teacher preparation courses in New York City and Vermont. Together with Meredith Liben, David founded two innovative model schools in New York City: New York Prep, a junior high school in East Harlem, and, in 1991, the Family Academy, where he served as principal and lead curriculum designer. David synthesized the research behind the Common Core State Standards in ELA, and, with his wife Meredith, was part of the research team that determined the complexity levels for the standards. David holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin and a master's degree in school administration from Teachers College, Columbia University.



Works Cited

Anderson, Richard C. and William E. Nagy. “The Vocabulary Conundrum.” Center for the Study of Reading, Technical Report No. 570. College of Education, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, March 1993, www.ideals.illinois.edu/bitstream/handle/2142/18019/ctrstreadtechrepv01993i00570_ opt.pdf. Accessed 20 Aug 2018.

Cervetti, Gina N., et al. “Conceptual Coherence, Comprehension, and Vocabulary Acquisition: A Knowledge Effect?” Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. 29, no. 4, Apr. 2016, pp. 761–779. ERIC, eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1094210. Accessed 20 Aug 2018.

Guthrie, John T., et al. “Increasing Reading Comprehension and Engagement Through Concept-Oriented Reading Instruction.” Journal of Educational Psychology, vol. 96, no. 4, 2004, pp. 403–423. www.cori.umd.edu/research-publications/2004-guthrie-wigfield-etal.pdf. Accessed 20 Aug 2018.

Landauer, Thomas K. and Susan T. Dumais. “A Solution to Plato’s Problem: The Latent Semantic Analysis Theory of Acquisition, Induction, and Representation of Knowledge.” Psychological Review, April 1997. www.researchgate.net/publication/200045221_A_solution_to_Plato's_problem_The_latent_semantic_analysis_theory_of_acquisition_induction_and_representation_of_knowledge. Accessed 20 Aug 2018. 

“National Reading Panel Reports Combination of Teaching Phonics, Word Sounds, Giving Feedback on Oral Reading Most Effective Way to Teach Reading.” National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 13 Apr. 2000, www.nichd.nih.gov/news/releases/nrp. Accessed 20 Aug 2018.