Monday, June 10, 2013

Independent Reading...To Read Or Not To Read!

I love reading...I have always loved reading.  From Mom reading books aloud to me as a baby and toddler,  to me curling up with a good book as a child and teenager, I...loved...reading!   It is the perfect way for me to escape the stress that often surrounds me!  (Although I must admit, some books bring me more stress!)

If I had a teacher who gave me 20-30 minutes each day to read a book of my choice in school, I would have adored that teacher!  Unfortunately, though, I didn't have that teacher, which is likely why I didn't love reading in school.  (How unfortunate, huh?)  Yeah, those reading textbooks just didn't do it for me.   

I loved picking a book of my choice, which I only got to do at home, and throwing myself into the story.  That's what we want our students to want to do...throw themselves into a good story!

This is why Independent Reading is one of my favorite times of the day.  While, no, I don't get to sit down with a book and read (Although it is tempting...I could use the excuse that I'm role modeling, right?), I do get to see students sit down and read books that they are choosing to read!

Each student in our room has a book bag, which contains three books...a book at their reading level, an informational text, and any book of their choice.  While all three books are ones that they choose, the book of choice is truly just is a book they choose without any requirements attached to it.

During Independent Reading, the students are reading books from their book bags.  I work with students in one-on-one conferences or in small groups on specific reading skills at this time.  I then encourage the students to take that skill back to a book they are reading, or I have them use one of their books to demonstrate their understanding of a skill to me.  So, if we are working on a skill associated with informational texts, they may then have a follow-up activity they can do with the informational text they chose in their book bag.

I wish I could say all students were thoughtfully engaged during Independent Reading; however, I don't have a room full of little mini-mes running around the room engrossed in books.  Part of the obstacle we have to overcome with our kiddos who are not interested in reading is actually finding a book that they enjoy and that is at their appropriate reading level.

One of my success stories from last year deals with a student who would typically stay on task during Independent Reading, but he never enjoyed it.  He would look at pictures in books, read some occasional captions, and attempt to change his book bag books everyday.  Was he getting a lot out of Independent Reading time if he were not working with my colleague or me?  No, not really.

Then, it happened...The Bluford Series came into his life!!  We read a book from this series aloud, The Bully, and he was immediately hooked.  He was asking if he could read when he finished an activity, had his nose in the book from the beginning of independent reading time to the end, and actually made his own personal reading goal to read every book in the series!  It just took finding him the right book to get him thoughtfully engaged in reading.

Do we spend enough time helping kids find books that are at their personal reading level and that are of interest to them?  If not, why not?  The time we spend doing this can pay off in the long run when they can't put a book down! 

Sure, it's easier to plan one reading lesson where everybody is reading the same book, but is that truly the most effective method to help students grow as readers?

Football players get better by playing football.  Singers get better by singing.  Chefs get better by cooking.  Readers get better by reading!!  If students aren't reading, they aren't going to get better!  Get texts in our students' hands that they want to read so they can truly practice those reading skills!

Don't you want to have to say, "Put your book away!"?  :-) 

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