Reading volume is defined as the combination of time students spend reading plus the number of words they actually consume as they read (Allington, 2012). This combination affects everything from students’ cognitive abilities to their vocabulary development and knowledge of the world (Cunningham & Zibulsky, 2013).
In “one of the most extensive studies of independent reading yet conducted,” Anderson, Wilson, and Fielding (1988) traced reading growth to independent reading and reading volume. They found that the amount of time students spent in independent reading outside of school was the best predictor of reading achievement. The chart below reveals the results of the study. Note the number of words students consume during independent reading—and the enormous differences in reading volume between higher- and lower-achieving students. Viewed across a year, we can immediately see the striking differences in reading achievement between the high-volume readers, who read more than an hour outside of school, and those students who avoid reading.
Keep in mind that children spend 900 hours a year in school versus 7,800 hours outside school (Trelease, 2013). Ideally, students are reading both in school and out. The Scholastic Kids & Family Reading ReportTM: Fifth Edition found that children are more likely to read outside of school if they are reading a book for fun in school. One influences the other, creating a field force of reading energy!