H. Garcia-Rodicio, M.A. Melero, B. Izquierdo

Universidad de Cantabria (SPAIN)
Most of the reading activities in the classroom involve, first, reading the text aloud by turns and, then, having a group discussion on the topic of the text. It would be also possible to have students read the text silently before maintaining the discussion. One interesting question is which of these forms of classroom reading is better for comprehension, aloud reading or silent reading.
Moreover, when a student is reading out loud in the classroom, his/her peers are both listening to his/her speech and reading their own text silently. Therefore, there is another form of classroom reading, follower reading. The goal of the present research was to compare aloud reading, silent reading, and follower reading in order to see which of them results in better comprehension.

Aloud reading prevents students from self-pacing reading, which means freely regulating the speed of reading and navigating freely across the text to reread a passage. Instead, students under the aloud reading condition have to follow a given pace (i.e., the one that reading out loud for your peers imposes). Conversely, silent reading gives students the opportunity to self-pace reading. Follower reading imposes an external pace, the one set by the aloud reader. Follower readers have also the opportunity to follow their own pace, but for this to happen they have to actively avoid the speech they are listening to from their peer. According to these arguments, one would expect aloud and follower reading to be worse than silent reading.

Prior Empirical Research:
Three experiments found no differences between aloud and silent reading (Carretti, Bosio, De Beni, & Cornoldi, 2012; Hale et al., 2010; McCallum, Sharp, Bell, and George, 2004), silent reading was better in one experiment (Prior & Welling, 2001), and one experiment more yielded support for aloud reading (Hale et al., 2007). As one can see, prior research provides inconclusive results. Moreover, it did not include the follower reading condition. This warrants further research on the question.

We asked 36 primary-school students to read three texts and solve some questions afterward. Each participant read one text out load, one silently, and another one under the follower condition. The three texts addressed a similar topic (i.e., Inuit, Papuan, Sioux), have an identical structure (physical appearance, way of life, history), and have an identical number of words (343) and propositions (33). Therefore, they can be considered equivalent. The order of presentation of the texts and that of the experimental condition were balanced. After reading each text, participants took a test with seven open-ended questions.

An ANOVA with experimental condition as the within-subjects condition revealed that there were significant differences between conditions in the test, F(1, 35) = 5.12, p = .03. Pairwise comparisons showed that aloud reading outperformed follower reading (p = .008), silent reading outperformed follower reading (p = .03), and aloud reading and silent reading did not differ from each other (p = .337).

The results indicated that aloud reading does not differ from silent reading, which means that having to follow an external pace did not hinder aloud readers’ comprehension. Follower reading, however, was significantly worse. This means that having to follow the pace imposed by a peer or trying to actively avoid it interferes with comprehension.