“Independent reading, both at school and at home, builds successful readers. What’s more, the research shows that giving our students a say in what they read is the key. And from our experience, we also know frequent reading leads to becoming a proficient reader, which helps a child thrive personally and academically.” Scholastic Kids & Family Reading ReportTM: Fifth Edition
At Eltham Primary School independent reading lays the foundation for becoming enthusiastic lifelong readers, not simply school time readers.
What is independent reading?
Independent Reading is reading with 95% or higher accuracy rate, 90% understanding of what is being read, and reading with fluency and expression.
Successful independent reading is the end result of a well-executed balanced literacy program. It allows students the chance to practise the strategies they’ve learned through instructional practices such as; guided reading, shared reading, and teacher ‘read alouds’. Students are taught how to choose books that they can read and books that they want to read, these are called Just Right books. With appropriate just right materials, students build the skills they need to read on their own. That means they can read confidently and are actually excited about their ability to read. Students are taught these transferrable skills to use when reading anytime.
The more students read, the more vocabulary they encounter and acquire; the more vocabulary they acquire, the better they read. Having a strong vocabulary helps students succeed academically because it improves their ability to comprehend text they read and hear. Students who read frequently learn more words at a rapid rate.
What does it look like?
At Eltham Primary every grade has independent reading every day. The session begins with explicit instruction of a reading comprehension strategy or a reading behaviour. The students then have an opportunity to practise the strategies or behaviours they have learnt individually, in a group or as a whole class. Then they will either work with the teacher in a small group or individually, or will choose their own text so they are able to improve as an independent reader. At the end of every independent reading session they will have an opportunity to reflect and share.
Students regularly participate in reading conferences with the teacher (at least twice per term), to allow the student to talk about themselves as readers, for the teacher to assess how they are progressing with their reading, and to set some personal reading goals.
When students have a voice in the reading process, they’re learning to contribute to their own knowledge. Because they can select the books they wish to read, they have greater control over what they want to learn. Students are much more likely to view reading as a priority when they have some ownership in the reading process.
As students must make a selection that is at their reading level, teachers need to have an exceptional classroom library. Every classroom at Eltham Primary has a classroom library which has a range of books on many different levels, topics, as well as genres.