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How 5 Extra Minutes of Reading a Day Makes a Difference

A recent report from Renaissance Learning on the amount of time kids spend reading has gotten a lot of attention. While results are based on the use of a particular program, Accelerated Reader, the number of students is large—almost 10 million—so the results merit attention.

A big finding is that the time students spend reading each day is critical to reading growth, and that more time is particularly important for struggling readers. Students who started the year behind their peers in reading and yet met high standards by year’s end were much more likely to read more than struggling readers who remained at the same level. In fact, only 5-6 extra minutes a day reading made the difference! Of course, the extra time only helps if kids are reading appropriate material and also understanding what they read—critical considerations.

Classroom, Inc. understands that students’ and teachers’ time is valuable—and limited! This study confirms that even limited time can pay big dividends in reading gains. When teachers choose a program to help their struggling students read better, they need one that works and that they can “fit in.” Our latest digital learning games, After the Storm, Community in Crisis, and the forthcoming Vital Signs, set in the professional world and focused on students’ literacy and leadership skills, meet these needs.

The games include a series of episodes that allow students to “be the boss” and solve problems in a workplace—problems that can only be solved by reading dialogue and documents such as emails, memos, blogs and reports. The episodes are modular and can be used flexibly, allowing students to get more reading in during short time frames. Each game includes from 12 to 20 episodes, and students typically spend about 25 minutes per episode, most of it reading. By the time they finish the game they have read 80,000 words, or close to two grade-level books!

Renaissance also reported that students are reading less, not reading enough nonfiction, and not reading challenging material. Our games are designed to get struggling students to read more and to read more challenging authentic text. As student read less, they are increasingly spending their time using media, according to Common Sense Media. Kids can do both at the same time when playing our games!

Our results have been positive. Students using After the Storm in school year 2014-15 made significant gains on a standardized reading test, the Reading-Level Indicator, and they gained more than expected based on national norms. Classroom, Inc. believes that struggling students deserve reading material that engages them, challenges them, and allows them to “be the boss.” Spending more time doing this improves their reading comprehension and their chances for life success.

Renaissance Learning. (2015) What kids are reading. Wisconsin Rapids, WI.
Common Sense Media. (2015) The Common Sense Census: Media use by tweens and teens. San Francisco, CA.