I think one of the most important aspects that I have learned about independent reading is that it is not a substitute for quality teaching and is not intended to be the only form of reading instruction. Children still require guidance and guidelines in order to guide and nurture their literacy experiences. Independent reading when used with structure and as a component of a balanced literacy program, can help increase vocabulary and background knowledge, improve fluency and comprehension which improves reading achievement by increasing motivation to read interest in books (Moss & Young, 2010). Another interesting result of a successful independent reading program is the number of words that students are able to learn and read through self selection of reading material. The various exposures to previously unknown words through reading help students to learn and plant the words into their memory.
Kelley and Clausen-Grace (2006) suggest, “Sometimes it isn’t a question of whether or not to use a practice but how to implement it more effectively.” (p. 154)
I like this quote because I do see the benefits of independent reading and have to see how to implement it most effectively with the time and set up that best fits the school schedule and expectations of administration. In my classroom, I would not be able to implement traditional independent reading, but I could use a modified version with some on my classes, particularly my 3rd graders.
One thing that I will definitely try to accomplish is to expose my students to a wider variety of genres, such as graphic novels and multicultural books in attempt to increase their interest in reading and hopefully motivate them to read outside of school. I will also try to incorporate an independent reading time in my classroom, even though it may only be once a week, because they also get a longer period of time for independent reading in their regular classroom. Another change that I would like to incorporate is allowing my students to have book talks with my students so they may encourage each other to read.
One technique that I have learned is planning the reading. I am well aware that none of my students read on grade level, either silently or orally. I have often wondered what we could do for them, short of sitting down and reading aloud grade level material to them so they get exposure to grade level material. The iPod solution would be great for these students. Another thing that I have learned is to consider the amount of time a student’s reading rate is and then allow them enough time to complete the assignment taking their reading rate into consideration.
While exploring some of the websites posted from Creating Lifelong Readers, I chose to investigate the Children’s book council website. I found a resource called FirstBook that allows educators to fill out applications and be approved to buy books at a reduced rate if the school qualifies. If a school was eligible this resource seems like a valuable tool to increase book availability to their students.
I personally have not had much experience using independent reading in my own classroom because I teach special education. I have observed independent reading in the past in the regular classroom and watch it develop and change over the years at our school. This year our school has made modifications to the way we do independent reading. In the past, AR time was at the end of the day and often it seemed to be a time for students to rush to the library instead of spending time reading. Now each grade level has their own AR or independent reading time according to what fits into their schedule. AR time is used for student to not only read books on their level, but the teacher conferences with the students about the books that they are reading. The students are also responding in AR journals about their books. We also have a school wide read aloud time for all grade levels the last ten minutes of the school day.