What does an effective independent reading program look like? Is there strong research to support it? Do young readers just choose any old book they like and it's okay for their reading time and thinking? What are "just right" books for young readers? What do readers do before, during, and after reading a self-selected book?
These are a few key topics around the discussions of effective independent reading instruction. Far too many folks have misinformation or a misunderstanding; the former is a bit of a concern for many of us who have launched independent reading programs within their ELA curriculums but hear about colleagues and parents who think it just a D.E.A.R. program…a throwback from the 1970's. A good program takes time to tweak and bring to full maturity. My own IR is still a work in progress too.
ELA folks who have studied Nancie Atwell and Donalyn Miller's work with reading will no doubt understand the knowledge, talent, effort and commitment it takes to bring a "mature" independent reading approach to ELA instruction. Offering students opportunities to read and read like crazy takes much behind the scenes preparation. First, and foremost, is a passion to read young adult literature and keep ones self in the know about contemporary literature, particularly the literature which changes lives. Communicating with readers runs a close second, and offering students multiple opportunities to write about and talk about the books they're reading is a hot third. A great deal of celebrating goes on in IR, Book Talks, record keeping, reflection, sharing, blogging, letter writing, cajoling, patience, and more.
More goes on than meets the eye during an Independent Reading session. For more thinking about this topic, please check out this article which provides a basic framework as well as the current research to support it…Independent Reading- The reading & Writing Project.
If you're considering launching an IR program, you should be commended. Find a mentor, build that library, follow some good blogs, and for heavens sake, you won't be sorry to have read the best book on the planet about reading and books: The Book Whisperer. This book, as one blogger put it, is like striking gold!
-views of a Middle School ELA IR Teaching Nut!