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Independent Reading

Independent reading is practicing reading! "Practice makes permanent"....In order for students to become proficient readers they need to practice reading all the time at their "independent" reading level.  Just like learning to ride a bike or play a sport a child needs to practice. Reading is no different. Independent reading is effective because it is a time for students to read, access to books that represent a wide range of characters, backgrounds, cultures, and experiences. Student choice in text is essential because it motivates, engages, and reaches a wide variety of readers. The goal of independent reading as an instructional practice is to build habitual readers who are motivated, encourages, and feel successful in order to build their reading identity. 

Try the following to help motivate your student/child to read on their own:

  • Let them choose –  Your student/child will be so much more motivated to read on their own if they choose books that they’re interested in. Help guide to make sure the book is at the appropriate reading level.
  • Set reading goals – Give your student/child something to work towards, for example, they can aim to finish a book before the end of the week, or learn five new words from a book they are reading. Don't make it a chore by filling out a log or overwhelming for the student/child; practicing reading should build motivation. 
  • Regular reading time – Designate a special time after school when your student/child can read without being disturbed. Setting a regular time will help them get into the habit of reading regularly, and it will soon become a part of their normal daily routine (maybe try to have them read before bedtime). 
  • Be on hand to help – Make sure you’re around if your child has any questions about words they can’t read or don’t know the meaning of. If they are having trouble with a word or sentence, try and give them hints to see if they can work it out themselves, instead of simply giving them the answer. Use the pictures if applicable.
  • Let them tell you all about it – Like most people, when you finish a book you want to tell people about it and share your thoughts. Discuss your student/child’s book with them and ask them questions. This will help to build their vocabulary and comprehension as a reader. Questions like- Who were the main characters? Where did the story take place? What did you think when…? What was your favorite part of the story? Would you recommend this book to other friends? Why? or Why not?
10 Ways to Promote Independent Reading:
Below is a list of ways to encourage students to read for pleasure as well as tips on facilitating an independent reading culture in your classroom.
  1. Host a book club. Book clubs are a great way to cultivate a community of readers that fosters connectivity through shared reading and discussion. Let the club members choose the books collectively—this encourages students to step outside their comfort zone and explore new genres.
  2. Collaborate with your local library. Invite staff from the local library to your school to introduce students to the many books, programs, resources, and services available to them. Help them obtain a library card and demonstrate all the ways they can use the nearest public library to their advantage.
  3. Host a young author read-aloud. Invite students to read an original story aloud to their peers, educators, and parents. This gives students a platform to showcase their work while helping to build confidence. 
  4. Reenact favorite books. Ask students to create a movie version of their favorite book. This is an opportunity for them to display how they envisioned the characters and events. Allow room for interpretation—let students decide a new ending or a twist in the plot they would’ve liked to see.
  5. Mystery check-outs. Wrap books in wrapping paper and encourage students to blindly choose a “mystery book.” This is a fun way to help students venture out of their comfort zone with a new author, genre, or series.
  6. Make time for independent reading. Set aside around 15–20 minutes per day for independent reading of self-selected books. Encourage discussion afterward to measure students' progress.
  7. Lead by example. Join students’ independent reading time! Make sure they see that you put everything else aside to focus on reading. Share your thoughts on the book you’re reading, and model any close reading or comprehension strategies you employ.
  8. Host a reading-related event. Host a book fair to promote reading as a passion, not an assignment. Invite parents to visit, encouraging at-home reading as well.
  9. Assign a reading log. Ask students to keep track of what and how much they’ve read. Encourage them to write down any questions or comments that may arise, so they can revisit them upon completion.
  10. Get parents involved. Remind parents that the time spent fostering literacy outside of the classroom is just as important as time spent inside the classroom. Check out these tips on ways you can support family literacy.
There is no one right way to successfully inspire independent reading, but establishing a strong classroom culture of reading is an important first step. Visit TeachThought's "25 Ways Schools Can Promote Literacy And Independent Reading" for more ideas.