Reading Rates

What are the accepted reading rates by grade for students?  Listed below are several reading rate studies for students with vision. While these studies state similar acceptable reading rates, there is not a specific magic number of words per minute for each grade level. However, the research does indicate that students with visual impairments and blindness typically lag behind their sighted peers in reading.

Research Study Recommendations Words Per Minute (WPM): Students with normal vision

*See attached document for an accessible version of the reading rate research tables.

Table of reading rates by grade for sighted students: of four studies and A-Z Reading recommendations:

Reading research data available on the Reading A-Z website.

Oral and Silent Reading Rates for Students Without Visual Impairments

Table of reading rates from 1st - 12th grade oral reading and silent reading rates of students with vision.

(Data is from Foundations of Low Vision: Clinical and Functional Perspectives by Corn and Koenig)

Reading Rates for Large Print Readers, Braille Readers and Auditory Readers

Limited research is available on reading rates for students with low vision and for braille readers. What is available are general statements which do not split out reading rates per grade level.

  • 1.5 to 2 times slower for students with low vision compared to sighted students (Gompel, van Bon, & Schreuder, 2004) *
  • Braille readers are one third to one half the reading rate of their sighted peers.  (Ferrell, Mason, Young, & Cooney, 2006)
  • High school students using compressed speech (screen readers) 350 - 550 WPM; excellent readers 700+ WPM

*Note: No formal research is currently available about reading rates organized by the acuity of students with low vision. Informal teacher documented reading rates for students with severely low vision are significantly lower than the research above. High school reading rates for longer passages (where eye fatigue is often an issue) has been informally stated to be 75 words or less.

The National Center for Accessible Educational Materials has a a video and downloadable research article about Audio-Supported Reading for Students who are Blind or Visually Impaired (Jackson & Presley, 2012). This research defines and describes the use of Audio-Supported Reading (ASR) to access text for students who are visually impaired or blind. ASR is described as a tool for integrating multiple formats to enable visually impaired students to gain literacy skills.

"With ASR, students, parents, and teachers no longer have to settle for artificially low rates of reading and cumbersome tactics for interacting with text. Evidence of ASR's effectiveness is logically compelling and anecdotally substantiated. . ." (Jackon & Presley, 2012)


Information about Reading Scores of Visually Impaired Students using Online Assessments

NWEA used data collected through the MAP growth assessments over an eight year period. They then compared reading growth with students who are visually impaired compared to the nationally normed group. This data indicated these significant items:

  • In third grade, a two year delay in reading between students with visual impairments and their sighted peers.
  • Students with visual impairments growth trajectories in reading trend upward at a steady pace; however, the gap between students with visual impairments and the national norm is wide.
  • Accelerated growth rate for students with visual impairments between 9th and 10th compared to the national norm group at the same grade level who tend to drop in reading growth.

For details, view A Longitudinal Study of Reading Growth for Students with Visual Impairments (Boroson, Barker, Li, 2016)

How to Determine Reading Rates?

Choose a reading selection. Record the number of seconds the student needs to read the passage. For smaller passages, divide the number of words in the passage by the number of seconds needed to read each selection. Multiply the quotient by 60 to determine the words per minute. For larger passages, divide the number of words in the passage by the number of minutes.

Learning Media Assessment (LMA)

Teachers of the visually impaired gather student reading data to be used to determine the student's best learning media. Note:  The comprehensive LMA will determine the best learning media mode for a variety of tasks, will look at various environments, note eye fatigue, and more. Different situations may call for different accessibility options. TVIs should regularly monitor and track reading speeds in different situations. LMA's should include technology integration.

Increasing Reading Speeds

Reading teachers have many strategies for increasing reading speeds, including read aloud, reading slightly easier passages, repetitive reading, and more.  

Here is a NFB article about increasing braille reading speeds: Braille Reading Speed:  Are you willing to do what it takes?

Here is a Paths to Technology post about increasing screen reader (reading by listening) speeds: Screen Reader Tech Activities:  Thanksgiving Lesson Plan

Collage of Reading Rates

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