Lately, we have heard a lot of concerned educators question the practice of independent reading: they worry that sending children to “read” books they are not engaged in or can’t read leads to wasted time for students.
We strongly believe in providing time for students to read self-selected, good-fit books each and every day in school. We work to teach children the behaviors to read independently, and practice these behaviors until they become automatic. Exposure to reading has a .43 effect size, and transfer of learning has a .86 effect size, both of which are considered high in the zone of desired effects (Hattie, 2022). Any factor that has an effect size of .4 or higher illustrates a year’s growth or more. Through independent reading time, students are able to spend time with text and apply their learning to the good-fit texts they choose. Sounds great, right?
But . . . what about the children who struggle? What about those who aren’t engaged in their book or can’t read the words? What do they do? Do we send them to look through books and “waste” time? Absolutely not. This is where we need to clarify that this isn't just independent reading time without support, but it is time for supported independent reading (SIR) in the classroom. What does SIR look like?
- Choice: Students are taught to use the I-PICK strategy for choosing good-fit books. This choice empowers students to select books that match their interests and their reading abilities, without focusing on a level.
- Access: We work to provide a diverse selection of books, including fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, and other genres. The more books students have to choose from, the more we can match their varied interests and reading abilities.
- Time: Students are provided uninterrupted time each school day to read independently.
- Teacher Support and Guidance: Teachers play a crucial role in the success of SIR. They provide guidance, support, and assessments to ensure that students are making appropriate book choices and progressing in their reading abilities. Teachers confer with students individually to discuss their reading choices and monitor their progress.
- Accountability and Assessment: Teachers use discussion, written response, and various other reading-related tasks to ensure that students are engaged and comprehending what they read. This is necessary to track students’ reading progress.
- Community: Students are given time to share their reading experiences, recommend books to peers, and engage in book discussions. This creates a positive reading culture in the classroom.
The purpose of daily SIR time is to
- improve reading comprehension and fluency,
- provide time for students to practice the reading skills they have learned in an authentic way,
- build students’ vocabulary and overall literacy skills, and
- promote reading pleasure.
During this time, students may engage in the various genres of their self-selected books, work through decodable books that reinforce the skills they are learning, or a mix of both.
It is important to also note that we do believe that in time, all students are able to be successful engaging with good-fit texts during supported independent reading. However, if there are students who are not ready for supported independent reading, we guide them toward supported independent work, or collaborative work that meets their needs.
We recognize that not all students progress at the same pace and that they have different interests. Supported independent reading provides a flexible approach to accommodate these differences. It is an effective way to help students become more confident and skilled readers.
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