The Importance of Independent Reading

Of course, all teachers want their students to improve in reading. We also strive to grow a love of reading in our students. One of the most crucial ways to improve student reading levels is to get students hooked on reading.
One of the best was to improve student reading skills is through independent reading. Of course, the more someone practices something, the better they get! Giving students ownership over their reading materials gets them to “buy-in”. When students have a choice, they will be much more apt to enjoy their reading. Be sure you have an abundance of books of all genres, levels, and on a variety of topics for your students.
Many teachers say they don’t have time to provide independent reading time in class. This is where they are going wrong! Independent reading time SHOULD be how your students spend most of their reading period. Some teachers say, students can read independently at home, so they spend class time doing other skills and centers. The fact of the matter is, most students don’t read independently at home. For those that do, it is not enough!
Some teachers worry their administrators and coaches won’t be happy if they walk into a class of students reading independently. To some, this looks like the “easy” way out because it requires little work on the teacher’s part. Some districts, schools, and administrators expect students to be working in skills-based centers. The fact of the matter is, having students read independently is EASIER on the teacher and his or her planning time, but it is also WHAT IS BEST FOR KIDS!
It is also important to note, that while students are reading independently, the teacher should also be engaged in guided reading, small groups, or one-on-one reading conferences, which are other crucial components of advancing readers.
If you have an administrator who is a naysayer, show them the research!
A study on first through fifth graders found,  “Among all the ways children spent their time, reading books was the best predictor of measures of reading achievement reading comprehension, vocabulary, and reading speed, including gains in reading comprehension between second and fifth grade.”

Independent Reading Study

But isn’t this common sense? If someone wants to become a better soccer player, they practice. If someone wants to become a better flute player, they practice. 
Stop spending your time planning and changing meaningless centers. Work on building your classes’ reading stamina. Implement independent reading in your class.
While independent reading should be most of the independent work time for your students, you can’t expect your students to jump into reading for extended amounts of time. Check out next week’s post for some tips to help build reading stamina.
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