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Establishment of Conditioned Reinforcement for Reading Content and Effects on Reading Achievement for Early-Elementary Students

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Reading interest is suggested to be integral to reading achievement, which affects later academic performance. Using whole-interval measures of silent-reading time, we recorded 34 second-grade students’ durations of reading episodes as constituting their intrinsic reading interest, or reinforcement value of reading content. Assessment of relations between this measure of sustained attention to the content of the text and multiple measures of both reading comprehension and vocabulary yielded significant correlations. We simultaneously conducted a combined preintervention and postintervention design with multiple probe logic to test the effect of the establishment of conditioned reinforcement for reading content, via a collaborative shared reading intervention with a teacher, on reading comprehension and vocabulary. This procedure involved periods of reciprocal reading and related collaborative reading activities designed to increase students’ reinforcement value of reading. The establishment of conditioned reinforcement for reading content for 7 participants resulted in grade-level increases from 0.1 to 2.2 grades on various measures of reading achievement in fewer than nine sessions (315 min). The results of this study suggest that it is not enough to learn the structure of reading: rather, one must learn to “love to read” in order to derive meaning from text in his or her development of comprehension and vocabulary.

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Lara M. Gentilini completed part of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy under the mentorship of the second author in the preparation of this manuscript. We thank Marla Brassard, Jessica Dudek, Daniel Fienup, and Ye Wang for feedback on a draft of this manuscript.

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Gentilini, L.M., Greer, R.D. Establishment of Conditioned Reinforcement for Reading Content and Effects on Reading Achievement for Early-Elementary Students. Psychol Rec (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40732-020-00382-6

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  • conditioned reinforcement
  • reading achievement
  • reading comprehension
  • reinforcement value
  • vocabulary