Independent Reading: One Key to Success

by Phyllis Glassman on November 4, 2010

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The literacy enriched classroom has many, many books in every corner of the room.  Books surround the students—on shelves, in baskets on the desks, in corners here and there, in centers, even on the carpet. Cozy reading areas, with varied lighting, are positioned to create a comfortable feeling for students—bean bag chairs, reading rugs, a rocking chair, pillows, and stuffed animals can be found throughout the room. Books are available from a variety of genres, cultures, and interests, fiction and non-fiction, and written at various reading levels.

Why is independent reading so important to students’ success with literacy?

Many studies have shown that the more students read, the better they do in school. By sharing their love for reading, teachers can make literacy a classroom priority. Students must be provided with literacy-rich environments, books at their independent reading level, and time within the school day to read them. This leads to huge benefits for students—larger and more varied vocabularies, improvements in standardized test scores, and a life-long passion for reading.*

How do teachers facilitate independent reading to engage every student?

During independent reading time, all students need structure. Teachers must set guidelines and procedures, supporting students in choosing books that are interesting to them and that are at their independent reading level. Children are fully engaged in independent reading for a specific amount of time, ranging from 15–30 (or more) minutes per day. When students finish a book, they complete a log or journal and meet with the teacher. This helps students interact with the text and focus on progress and success.

Facilitating Engagement by Differentiating Independent Reading, by Michelle J. Kelley and Nicky Clausen-Grace in The Reading Teacher, discusses ways in which teachers can support readers’ engagement during independent reading. They provide a continuum of readers from disengaged to engaged and suggest ways for teachers to support and monitor students’ engagement. Their tools and suggestions for teachers provide practical and useful ideas to ensure full engagement of students as they read independently. If reading is seen as a priority, students’ independent reading will improve and meaningful engagement with books will increase.

As we at Foundations, Inc. visit schools throughout the country, it gives us great pleasure to see many classrooms enriched by literature. Books in every “nook and cranny” are inviting, exciting and stimulating to all student readers. We strive for every classroom to be a literacy-enriched classroom!

*[Sources: Growth in Reading and How Children Spend their Time Outside of School by R. Anderson, P. Wilson, L. Fielding in Reading Research Quarterly; and Summer Must-Read for Kids? Any Book by Tara Parker-Pope in the New York Times.]

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