Text Matters: Reader and Text Factors Associated with Reading Rate

Tortorelli, Laura, Education - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Invernizzi, Marcia, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

This dissertation examines the extent to which reading rate varies among texts. Reading rate is a common fluency assessment tool and instructional goal in the early elementary grades (Valencia et al., 2010). The factors associated with reading rate for young children, however, have not been clearly established in the research literature. The RAND model of reading comprehension describes reading as an interaction between reader, text, and reading activity (RAND Reading Study Group, 2002). Using the RAND model as a conceptual framework, this dissertation examines the reader and text factors associated with reading rate for a large, state-wide sample of students in the spring of second grade. Reader factors include measures of orthographic knowledge and demographic characteristics (age, gender, race, and English language learner status). Text factors include grade level and measures of narrativity, referential cohesion, and deep cohesion. Participants were assessed using the Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening 1-3 and read between one and five expository passages each. Passage readings were nested in children using multilevel modeling (Raudenbush & Bryk, 2002) in order to capture factors associated with reading rate at the reader and text levels and interactions between the two levels. Results indicate significant but small effects for most reader variables and significant effects for all text variables. Orthographic knowledge and gender also demonstrated significant interactions with text variables. The implications for fluency assessment and instruction under the Common Core State Standards (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2010), which call for higher levels of text complexity in the early elementary grades, are discussed.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
reading fluency, reading rate, text complexity, multilevel modeling
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