The Power of Independent Reading & Student Choice

The Power of Independent Reading & Student Choice

The start of a new school year offers students and teachers many opportunities for independent reading. Incorporating independent reading as a routine practice has many benefits for both students and teachers. Students get to enjoy a book they love, while teachers gain the time and space to get to know their students.

According to the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the goal of independent reading is “to build habitual readers with conscious reading identities.” In other words: independent reading transforms students into readers. Isn’t this what we all want for our students?

Benefits of Independent Reading

Increases Motivation

Motivation is a critical component in learning to read and comprehend texts. When students have reading choices and select texts that inspire curiosity, they become more motivated to read. Research has shown that an increased motivation to read is associated with increased reading achievement.

Low-Stakes Skill Practice

Engaging in independent reading allows students authentic practice applying their reading skills in a low-stakes setting. Students can enjoy a book that is self-selected and interesting to them without being graded or evaluated on their reading.

Strengthens Reading Stamina

The more text a student engages with, the more words and language they are likely to encounter and retain. As students read more frequently, independent of teacher support or scaffolds, their stamina begins to build. Teachers should monitor the amount of time students spend actively reading during independent reading time to best observe stamina growth.

Protect Your Independent Reading Time

Despite its many benefits, independent reading is often replaced with other programs and interventions. Don’t let independent reading be the first thing on the chopping block when times get busy. Carve out dedicated time for independent reading and think of this time as both routine and nonnegotiable.

NCTE advises that independent reading be practiced across all grade levels, so consider coordinating with other teachers to promote this practice for all students. Educators may need to seek buy-in and support from administrators and fellow teachers to get a reading initiative rolling.

Independent reading time can be extended to outside of the school day. For independent reading at home, engage families and caregivers in the conversation. Consider opportunities to send books home with students or offer a digital reading subscription. Explore more tips on how to get students reading outside of school.

How to Find Appropriate Books for Independent Reading

Students are most likely to enjoy the benefits of independent reading when they have a selection of good books to choose from. Look for engaging books with meaningful storylines or information that would interest your students. Students often enjoy reading books that provide a window into other worlds or reflect their own experiences.

But as literacy research expert and children’s book author Dr. Alexandra Spichtig says, “Having engaging books is only the spicing that makes the food taste delicious. The key ingredient is content that kids can read successfully.” Therefore, be sure to consider the difficulty of the books you are presenting to students.

Reading assessments can be an excellent starting point to determine a student’s reading strengths and areas for growth. These assessments not only give teachers insight into students’ reading behaviors, but they also provide an opportunity to discover what types of texts will be best to use for instruction versus independent reading time. 

TIP: For independent reading, students should be able to read their books with a high degree of accuracy (95–100%) without any assistance.

When students are given the right assortment of books to read for independent reading, they are motivated to engage with the texts, knowing that their curated selection will be just right for them.

Independent Reading with Digital Reader

Independent reading doesn’t have to be confined to physical books. Online tools like Digital Reader can simplify independent reading by letting students choose a desired topic, character, or genre through their personal bookshelves.

The personalized student bookshelf holds a collection of titles for each child that matches their individual independent reading abilities. When students log in to their accounts, they will be excited to find an entire selection of engaging titles that are just right for their reading journey.

Reading Adventures

Digital Reader adds more excitement and learning opportunities to independent reading with Reading Adventures. Each interactive adventure includes a word study game, a video introduction to the book, an opportunity for the student to read the book independently, and a short quiz. These reading activities, seamlessly woven into the student’s journey, provide a greater sense of motivation during independent reading and allow the teacher to monitor student activity and progress.

With effective literacy programs, high-quality books, and flexible digital resources, Pioneer Valley Books is here to support your reading initiatives. Explore our library or get in touch to see how we can best fit your needs.