For me, this was the hardest concept to wrap my head around. I think not being a classroom teacher made it difficult o fully understand the idea of independent reading beyond the simplistic idea of SSR. How could I successfully implement an independent reading program into a future classroom? Through the amazingly informative and reader friendly book ‘Creating Lifelong Readers Through Independent Reading’ by Barbara Moss and Terrell Young I feel as if I at least have a basic concept and idea of not what independent reading is, but also on how it should be used in the classroom.
So what does reading independently mean to me? Some of my favorite quotes from Creating Lifelong Readers Through Independent Reading are as follows:
“Independent reading provides practice and pleasure and a passion for books.”
“Independent reading is just one component of a quality reading program, but it is a critical one-not a substitution for substitute for direct instruction in basic reading skills, but a critical support for students learning to read, as well as reading to learn.”
“A reading program that neglects instruction and simply focuses on independent reading is not likely to be successful…Independent reading should be one component of a balanced literacy program that includes a range of instructional activities focusing on decoding, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension development, and so on.”
“Independent reading, also called voluntary reading, self-selected reading, or leisure reading, is reading that students do on their own in or out of school, with or without accompanying instruction.”
“Whenever wherever students are reading on their own, without teacher assistance, they are reading independently (Moss & Young).”
Independent reading cannot be done alone nor can we expect students ‘to just do it’. Careful instruction and scaffolding needs to be in place to implement a successful program. Independent reading is just one component of the overall reading program that should be combined with direct reading instruction. The skills learned through direct reading instruction will be enhanced by allowing students to read independently, using the skills they have learned.
The benefits of independent reading are:
Increased vocabulary development
Greater domain and background knowledge
Better fluency and comprehension
Improved reading achievements
Greater interest in books and motivation to read
But in order for students to benefit from independent reading, the teacher needs to instruct them on how to read independently. Independent reading program should be an integral part of a BALANCED reading program. It should include the following:
Supportive reading environments
Access to interesting books and reading materials
Structured time for engaging with texts
Active Engagement by teachers
Family and Community connections
Independent reading has 2 components. The first component is done 2 times a week for 20 minutes where students engage in Community reading. This includes:
Teacher Interactive Read-aloud
Time for Reading
The second component of my Independent reading program would be SIRT also known as Supported Independent Reading Time. 60 minutes a day will be devoted to SIRT. Moss & Young break SIRT into four critical activities:
Time for Reading
Providing this Reading Independent framework in the classroom will allow for successful independent reading to occur, which not only further enhances direct reading instruction, but also provides a way for linking content areas to reading as well as allowing students to engage in meaningful reading. Helping our students learn how to read and engage in what interests them, to become part of the reading process, respond and share with others and to develop an enjoyment of reading with help create lifelong readers out of our students.
Creating a classroom library that is attractive, comfortable, engaging and student friendly is important to a reading program. The library needs to be filled with books that are wide widely diverse, appealing and across the many genres. Having many different means of acquiring reading is also important. You shouldn’t just have paper books available, but also have books in electronic format as well as audio when possible.
As a teacher I plan to use resources such as my text books from various classes such as this one with book suggestions, teacher recommendations and online resources such as ALA. Building a large and comprehensive library with take time, but by utilizing the many resources I have available as well as student input I hope to create an appealing library all students will enjoy.
In addition to the actual reading library, I will need to create a reading space where students can go and read comfortably. I plan to provide many different chairs and cushions students can use while they read, surround them with displays both teacher and student created, and essential surround them with literature. I want to create a reading room where learning takes place.
A huge area of the reading program is providing students with the opportunity to read what is interesting to them. We may not always be able to let them read exactly what they desire, but we can provide time for self-selection, as well as the opportunity to have a say in what is read, even if it is by choosing a book from previously selected materials. In order to provide books that are interesting to our students, we must have an idea of what they finding interesting. Providing an interest inventory as well as listening and observing them in the classroom can help teacher make decisions on books to include in the library, thematic units to teach, books to display and more. If I know my students have an interest in animals, I may find as many books as possible about animals, introduce them to the students, and create a display for easy access. Students can use the interest inventory when deciding which books they would like to read, as well as a guide for me to make suggestions on what books they may like.