Results reported by Leinhardt, Zigmond, and Cooley (1981) have been interpreted as support for increased silent reading in classroom reading instruction. Leinhardt et al. examined a causal model of classroom processes influencing reading achievement and showed that time spent in silent reading, rather than oral reading, was positively related to gains in reading achievement. The present study reanalyzed the Leinhardt et al. data in an attempt to clarify the interpretation of their results. By means of linear structural equation modeling we show that students' entry-level reading abilities had a significant direct effect on time spent in silent reading, but no such effect on time spent on oral or "indirect" reading. Any attempt at examining the role of silent reading needs to take this into account. When entry-level abilities were more adequately controlled by incorporating measurement error into the model, silent reading no longer showed a significant effect on posttest reading performance. Indeed, under alternative models of the data, there is even the suggestion that time spent in oral reading had more effect on final reading achievement. These findings have important implications for the oral versus silent reading debate, as well as for the more general question of the relationship between time spent in reading and student achievement.
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