It is all well and good to teach children how to write, read, and comprehend text, but what is the point if they do not regularly put it into practice. Classroom reading gives children a basic means of practicing reading. However, this is limited and may not appeal to all children.
Independent reading is where children can uncover a passion for reading things that interest them and putting their classroom skills into practice.
Practice, Practice, Practice…
Like all skills, the only way to get good at reading is to practice. Independently reading a wide variety of books can tune all necessary skills – from learning vocabulary to understanding key themes and how to identify with the world the author has created.
However, these skills cannot be unlocked unless they look beyond the school curriculum and discover what they truly enjoy reading themselves. Therefore, independent reading is of paramount importance.
Given how widely books vary, it is impossible to measure the effectiveness of independent reading, but the results can be demonstrated in a child’s ability to analyze and understand. Independent reading requires the child to pick up reading material themselves, so how can you compare one child’s capacity for reading with another in this case?
Despite this, correlational studies tend to prove that independent reading makes better readers.
Is Self-Selected Required Reading Effective?
Based on meta-analyses, self-selected required reading, such as summer reading programs or in-class reading time, dramatically impacts students’ ability to read and encourages them to grow their appreciation for literature.
However, these initiatives are not as effective as reading comprehension classes and teacher-led reading classes where children are taught various useful skills related to reading, such as fluency and phonic identification. Research has shown these methods to improve reading skills tenfold.
It is thought that teacher-led reading is more effective in improving young people’s reading skills because the books that teachers read are curriculum approved and cover specific areas aimed at improving reading.
Plus, if students are struggling with reading, it helps to have the assistance of a teacher or another grown-up, which cannot always be provided in independent reading. It also means that the entire class is reading the same book simultaneously to learn through peer discussions.
Making Independent Required Reading More Effective
The teacher could write up a list of approved texts known to improve reading and that are written to teach specific reading skills. Teachers could also create general questions related to these texts that would train children’s comprehension levels.
Independent reading should always be encouraged, although its effectiveness cannot be accurately assessed. Independent reading could be made more effective if the teacher creates boundaries, such as creating a list of approved texts and questions related to these books.