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Independent reading should be relaxed and enjoyable. Teachers demonstrate that they value independent reading when they read themselves and also make sure that students have time to enjoy independent reading.
For students, independent reading of material they choose themselves:
Studies have documented evidence linking students’ access to texts, and the amount of reading that they do, to their achievement in reading. Choosing to read recreationally is also associated with high rates of achievement.
A set time in the daily routine for independent reading is an essential part of the classroom literacy programme. If they are to become lifelong readers, students need opportunities to select their own texts, read them, and share what they have read. Ready access to a wide range of interesting and challenging texts (including fiction and non-fiction texts in various print and electronic forms) enables students to choose to read independently when opportunities arise. Teachers need to make it clear that students benefit when they read for pleasure, whether in or out of school. Students achieve better when they see their teacher reading independently for pleasure.
The teacher needs to establish routines and expectations for any regular independent reading sessions. For example, students should be able to select enjoyable texts at an appropriate level, sustain their engagement in the text during the session, and read silently or join in focused conversation if appropriate. It is good practice to give students opportunities to share their views on self-selected texts. Most year 5 to 8 students can be expected to focus closely on a carefully selected text for at least twenty minutes.
While the class reads silently, the teacher can take the opportunity to observe their students’ reading behaviour and to monitor their interest and enthusiasm, their selection of texts, their understanding of what they read, and the amount of reading they do. This will inform the teacher’s further guidance of each student’s reading.The teacher may rove and have quiet conversations with students during independent reading.
The teacher’s conversations, interviews, and conferences with groups and with individual students can yield valuable information about what the students are reading, whether they are setting themselves new challenges, and how they are enjoying the books they choose. The teacher may use a student’s reading log or record of borrowing from the library to draw the student’s attention to their patterns of reading and to ways of extending these patterns. For this to be effective, the teacher needs a good knowledge of the fiction and non-fiction texts that are available to the students outside school. However, it’s important at all times for the teacher to avoid being intrusive – independent reading is intensely personal and should focus on enjoyment and empowerment.