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Effectiveness of Reader’s Theatre to Enhance Reading Fluency with Comprehension and Motivation towards Reading for the Struggling Readers

Bangladesh Education Article
Bangladesh Education Article
Written by Editor


Enhancing reading fluency is one of the major challenges in literacy arena for the struggling readers and ability to read fluently with accurate comprehension is one of the most important skills a child can acquire (Gummere, 2004). Besides fluency, two of the other problems usually are a lack of comprehension and reading motivation (Rasinski, 2000). However, 90% chance that a poor reader at the end of grade 1 will continue to be a poor reader at the end of grade 5, in addition to if children cannot read well, they fall behind in everything else and they usually develop negative attitudes about reading and school (Jhingran, 2011). Students who struggle with reading over several years often develop such a strong resistance to reading that even under most favourable conditions, voluntary reading is the last activities in which they choose to engage (Quandt & Selznick, 1984 in Worthy, Patterson, Salas, Prater & Turner, 2002, p. 180).

Therefore, it is important to implement an effective instructional strategy which may enhance reading fluency with comprehension and motivation towards reading of struggling readers. Teachers need to use such instructional strategy that will make a difference in their students reading development. The focus of this literature review is to study the effectiveness of reader’s theatre in enhancing reading fluency with comprehension of struggling readers and their motivation towards reading.

This literature review is divided into following manners. First, oral reading fluency is defined and its importance in reading is argued. Second, the connection between oral reading fluency and comprehension is considered basing on various research studies.  Third, it describes what reader’s theatre is. Then the literature review focuses on the theories behind reader’s theatre and some empirical researches that support this instructional strategy. After that it looks into, how reader’s theatre contributes to enhance reading fluency with comprehension and how reader’s theatre keeps impact on motivation towards reading of struggling readers. Next the effectiveness of reader’s theatre from teachers’ perspective is discussed. Finally, the implication in different context (in regular schools of developing country like Bangladesh), generalization issue and further research area on reader’s theatre are argued.

Reading fluency and its importance in reading
Kuhn, Schwanenflugel and Meisinger (2010) have stated that many literacy educators (e.g., Rasinski, Blachowicz, & Lems, 2006; Samuels & Farstrup, 2006) consider fluency to be a critical component of reading development. Automatic word recognition is central to the construct of fluency and fluency’s role in the comprehension of text (Samuels, 2006). Thus when considering mature and fluent readers, it is likely that they have strong decoding skill and they do not have to labour over individual words, the way a beginning or struggling reader does (Gummere, 2004). Moreover, lack of fluency is characterized by slow, halting pace, frequent mistakes, poor phrasing and inadequate expression (Samuels, 2004 in Carrick, 2006, p. 209). According to Kuhn et al (2010), fluency is defined as combination of accuracy, automaticity, and oral reading prosody, which, taken together, facilitate the reader’s construction of meaning.

As per theory of automaticity (Samuels, 1994), readers who struggle with their word recognition skill may lack ‘automaticity’ that is used to describe those processes which require little conscious attention. Accordingly, if one wants to become a competent reader, word recognition is one process that needs to become automatic (Gummere, 2004). So, such instructional strategy is required for enhancing reading fluency which will help the students to develop the skill of ‘automaticity’.

Connection between reading fluency and comprehension
Tyler and Chard (2000) have stated that some (e.g., Anderson, Wilkinson & Mason, 1991; Hoffman, & Isaacs, 1991) told that fluency is the result of good comprehension and other researchers (e.g., Deno, 1985; Reutzel & Hollingsworth, 1993; Stayter & Allington, 1991) counter that increasing fluency leads to deeper comprehension (p. 164). Rizopoulos (2004), states that some researchers (Armbruster, Lehr, & Osborne, 2001; NAEP Study, 2000; Chall, 1983) found that fluent reading is highly correlated with measures of reading comprehension (p. 25). Strecker, Roser and Martinez (1998) also agreed that there is undoubtedly a reciprocal relationship between reading fluency and reading comprehension. The empirical study of Fuchs, Fuchs, Hosp and Jenkins (2001), indicates strong relationships between oral reading fluency and performance on more traditional measures of reading comprehension. Thus the relation between reading fluency and reading comprehension is evident.

Reader’s theatre
Readers theatre is considered as one of the best evidence based practices for enhancing reading fluency, with sight word recognition and proper expression as according to Worthy and Prater (2002 in Garrett & O’Connor, 2010, p. 7), Reader’s theatre is an instructional method that connects quality literature, oral reading, drama and several research – based practices. In addition, readers’ theatre is an instructional strategy that utilizes students’ thoughts and actions fully in selecting the text as well as in developing and performing the script (Allington, 2001). It is different from traditional theatres and conventional plays as the readers (or performers) do not have to memorize lines but read directly from the scripts, costumes, scenery, props are rarely used and it can take place in any setting (Moran, 2006, p. 318). Readers use their voices, facial expressions and bodies to interpret the emotions feelings and attitude. There remains a narrator, who “paints a picture” by communicating the story setting and action and provides the commentary necessary for transition between scenes (Carrick, 2001).

Theories and researches supporting reader’s theatre
Theory of automaticity (Samuels, 1979), prosodic cuing (Schreiber, 1980), transactional theory (Rosenblatt, 1978), multiple intelligences (Gardener, 1993) and cooperative learning (Johnson & Johnson, 1985; Slavin, 1987) – all these theories and paradigms support reader’s theatre approach (Carrick, 2006, p. 211). Vygotsky’s (1978) socio cultural theory states that student construct their knowledge from interaction with other students in social context. As Readers theatre provides immense opportunity for effective interaction with the peers while practicing the script and performing the text. Gardener’s (1993) theory of multiple intelligences also supports reader’s theatre approach as the theory encourages to support each student’s multiple intelligences. By using reader’s theatre scripts, teachers encourage students to read with expression and to practice important fluency attributes, such as pausing, inflection, and intonation (Rizopoulos, 2004, p. 27). As it plays an important role to read with proper expression, pausing and intonation, theory of prosodic cuing (Schreiber, 1980 in Carrick, 2006) supports Readers theatre strategy.

Numerous observational claims have supported the value of reader’s theatre, an interpretive activity in which students repeatedly read a script as a vehicle for oral reading practice (Keehn, 2003, p. 43). Martinez, Roser and Strecker’s study (1999) in second grade classrooms provided empirical evidence that reader’s theatre promotes gains in oral reading fluency, as well as growth in overall reading proficiency. Another study (Corcoran & Davis, 2005, p. 110) on second and third grade students of diverse skill levels has revealed that reader’s theatre program has positive impact on reading attitudes and confidence level of second third grade students. Millin and Rinehart (1999) also reported the benefits of reader’s theatre for Title I students and found that readers theatre participants exhibit a positive change in attitude toward reading and their own confidence as readers. Other studies also demonstrate positive effects of readers’ theatre on fluency, comprehension, attitude toward reading and appreciation of literature when used in whole-class and/ or small group instruction (Carrick, 2000; Maberry, 1975, Millin, 1996 cited in Carrick, 2006, p. 211).

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