Volume of Reading? How much is “enough”?

How much reading should a second grader be doing daily? (both in and out of school)

  • a. 1 leveled book
  • b. 1 leveled book and 1 book of choice
  • c. 1 leveled book and content reading across the day
  • d. I don’t know
  • e. None of the above


Second graders are often reading Magic Tree House books.

Do these look familiar?



Amount and Type of Reading

Wide reading will help students grow their vocabulary, develop stamina, increase background knowledge, and improve fluency. One controversial recommendation from the Common Core says that students need to read more informational text. The Common Core State Standards follow the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) recommendations for informational text ratios:  50 percent in elementary school, 55 percent in middle school, and 70 percent in high school. (Across the ENTIRE day for ALL students!) Texts can be chosen to align with state social studies and science standards or to address topics that students find interesting.  A wide variety of texts can be found online at sites like:   Text Project, Readworks or Reading A-Z.  You will have to decide how those texts also meet the “text complexity” requirements of CCR Anchor Standard 10.  Your public library,  school, or AEA media specialist will be able to provide information about how to find interesting articles online.  Your district may subscribe to national databases that will allow you to download articles. In many cases, these databases also include a complexity score by grade level (which is one part of “text complexity”).  In Iowa, these databases are available through AEA Online.


How much reading should a second grader be doing daily? (both in and out of school)

  • a. 1 leveled book
  • b. 1 leveled book and 1 book of choice
  • c. 1 leveled book and content reading across the day
  • d. I don’t know
  • e. None of the above

And the answer is, . . . drum roll, please . . .  *

According to Lucy Calkins, a second grader reading approximately 100 words per minute needs to be reading the equivalence of  TWO Magic Tree House books EVERY day in order to be reading enough print and encountering enough vocabulary words to be on track to meet the grade level standards and accelerate learning to meet the promise of the  Common Core at the end of second grade.

The answer is e. None of the above   (2nd grade – TWO Magic Tree House books every day!)

How are your students doing?  Are they on track?  How can you incorporate more reading “across the day” for your students in order to “accelerate” their learning?  What questions do you have about this amount of text for second graders?

(*Presentation titled Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Student Achievement, Lucy Calkins, 01/25/2013. Chicago, IL: New York Teachers College: TRWP.)

4 responses

  1. I must say that I am in shock that Lucy Calkins made that statement … and worry about how parents would interpret it if they get wind of it. Oh my.

    1. Barb,
      The heading that I have for this section in my notes was “Are your students reading enough?” Lucy specifically stated that our students are probably not reading “enough” at the present time to “accelerate achievement”.

      What I believe I heard was first, not that this reading would ever be “assigned” but rather “How much time are you allocating to reading at school?” and second, “What are your expectations for daily student reading?” If we, teachers and school folks, don’t increase the actual time spent reading and our expectations, students will never be able to meet the demands of the Common Core. The exact quote continued with, “Students need to be actually reading an hour and a half a day in school and at home!”

      In my opinion, teachers need to first consider how they are “using school time” for reading. The system of reading one chapter a day from a chapter book does not allow a student to interact with enough words. A second response would be to re-consider how teachers can incorporate more reading across the day. And a final response would be to review the structures that are in place to support at-home reading. For our students who are not reading at home,for whatever reason, we must provide additional opportunities at school!

      My hope would be that the educators who heard Lucy in that room are continuing to have these conversations. This would not be a blurb in a note sent home to parents. This would be a reflective piece for me as a teacher to re-evaluate how students use time in my classroom and how I should set my goals and priorities for classroom instruction.

      Does this make sense? Or just create more confusion?

  2. […] McVeigh, F. (2013). Volume of Reading: How much is enough?  link […]

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