Silent reading: a study of the various types by Charles Hubbard Judd

Silent reading: a study of the various types

Silent reading: a study of the various types


No more striking example of the effect of scientific studies on school practice can be found than the present-day attention to the teaching of silent reading, 
A score of books has been published in the last three years which explicitly state that their chief aim is to contribute to the methods of teaching silent reading. Some teachers and principals are so inspired with enthusiasm for silent reading that they are advocating the abandonment altogether of oral reading, although oral reading is more strongly entrenched in the traditions of the schools than any other subject or method of teaching. 

The discovery of silent reading is directly traceable to the work of educational psychologists. At a time when practical school procedure was ignoring entirely the distinction between oral reading and silent reading, laboratory studies began to make certain measurements that are the basis of the present-day reform. It was found by means of simple time- measurements that a skillful reader reads silently several times as fast as he reads aloud. Later it was shown by more elaborate methods why this is so. The element which makes oral reading slow is the relatively v/ cumbersome process of pronouncing the words. 
This process cannot by any possible device be speeded up so as to equal in rapidity the processes of recognition and interpretation in the highly perfected form which these reach in a mature reader. A very common result of the emphasis on oral reading during the whole school training is to fasten upon the pupil the ^ limitations which are characteristic of oral reading. Recent investigations of the laboratory have made this clear by showing that the kind of reading exhibited by adults who are inefficient readers is usually the same as the kind of reading found in the case of immature readers who are at the early oral stages. While scientific workers were making these discoveries, the schools continued to overlook the distinction between oral reading and silent reading. 

Throughout the elementary curriculum, it was the practice to limit the teaching of reading to class exercises in which the method was exclusively oral. To be sure, the teachers made the demand, especially from the fourth grade on, that pupils do much reading by themselves. Lessons were assigned in geography and history and other subjects which required the independent mastery of textbooks, but no effort was made to supervise the pupils ' reading habits during their perusal of these textbooks. It was assumed that a pupil could read silently with efficiency because he was reading orally in the formal reading class. Scientific evidence in regard to the difference between oral reading and silent reading accumulated, however, until it became too impressive to be ignored.

 Not only so, but as soon as the distinction was clearly pointed out, practical school people began to realize that many of the troubles of the upper grades can be traced directly to the failure to give proper recognition to silent reading. The demand for reform began to be voiced in many quarters and finally led to one of the most significant movements in modern education. The genera] lesson to be drawn from the recent history of reading in the schools can be stated in a form which is very encouraging to the student of educational science. This lesson is that wherever the mental processes of pupils show fundamental differences, practical school procedures will have to fit their methods to these differences. If the mental « J processes involved in reading silently are different from the mental processes involved in reading aloud, the school will have to meet this difference with special methods. 

The program of cooperation between science and practical teaching is easy to lay out when we thus see the intimate relationship between methods and psychological distinctions. The duty of the scientist is to devise methods of discovering and describing fundamental distinctions. The duty of the teacher is to develop practical ways of dealing with the various kinds of mental processes which are pointed out. This monograph is a study of some of the more complex forms of reading. In the main, the types of reading dealt with are those which are usually carried on silently. For purposes of investigation, it is some- times desirable to require the subject to read orally some part of the exercise, but in such cases, the oral reading is used primarily to check the silent reading. 

The real center of the investigation is silent reading. No more striking example of the effect of scientific studies on school practice can be found than the present-day attention to the teaching of silent reading, A score of books have been published in the last three years which explicitly state that their chief aim is to contribute to the methods of teaching silent reading. Some teachers and principals are so inspired with enthusiasm for silent reading that they are advocating the abandonment altogether of oral reading, although oral reading is more strongly entrenched in the traditions of the schools than any other subject or method of teaching. 

The discovery of silent reading is directly traceable to the work of educational psychologists. At a time when practical school procedure was ignoring entirely the distinction between oral reading and silent reading, laboratory studies began to make certain measurements that are the basis of the present-day reform. It was found by means of simple time- measurements that a skillful reader reads silently several times as fast as he reads aloud. Later it was shown by more elaborate methods why this is so. The element which makes oral reading slow is the relatively cumbersome process of pronouncing the words. 

This process cannot by any possible device be speeded up so as to equal in rapidity the processes of recognition and interpretation in the highly perfected form which these reach in a mature reader. A very common result of the emphasis on oral reading during the whole school training is to fasten upon the pupil the limitations which are characteristic of oral reading. Recent investigations of the laboratory have made this clear by showing that the kind of reading exhibited by adults who are inefficient readers is usually the same as the kind of reading found in the case of immature readers who are at the early oral stages. While scientific workers were making these discoveries, the schools continued to overlook the distinction between oral reading and silent reading.
publication date:1922


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