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How do children learn to read silently?

When a beginning reader reads aloud, her progress is apparent: Hunched over a book, little index finger blazing the way, she moves intently from sound to sound, word to word.

I do not like green eggs and ham! I do not like them, Sam-I-am!

But when that same child reads silently, it's much harder to measure how much she is reading or understanding. Yet as she advances through school, teachers will expect her to learn increasingly through silent rather than oral reading.

Researchers at the Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR) at Florida State University will tackle that paradox over the next four years. Funded by a $1.6 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, a team headed by FCRR researcher Young-Suk Kim will examine a poorly understood area of literacy: the relationship between oral and silent reading, and how those skills, in turn, relate to reading comprehension.

"One of the reasons why silent reading has not been paid attention to sufficiently is that it is difficult to measure," said Kim, also an assistant professor in Florida State's College of Education. "The other piece is, people may just assume that, if you read well orally, then you'll also read well silently."

However, studies show that's not the case for all students, said Kim. Some may pretend to read, read inefficiently, or struggle over the bridge from oral to silent reading. That crucial transition will be the focus of the new project.

Kim and her team will follow 400 Leon County (Fla.) students from first to third grade, testing them three times a year to measure when and how they develop accurate oral reading and advance from oral to fluent silent reading.

"Initially, kids sound out each letter, then put all the sounds together, and then make a word," explained Kim, a former classroom teacher. "As their reading develops further, they will be abl

Contact: Young-Suk Kim
Florida State University

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