This year, I am teaching seventh grade reading intervention classes. Not every student in my class is a developing reader (a.k.a., struggling). Some are developing test takers. Others are developing stay-awakers. Some knew they would be promoted regardless of the test outcome. Others experienced morning events that affected their performance. Regardless of the situation, we have a year to spend together, and my goal is to help these students find enjoyment in reading via independent reading.
Cullinan (2000) writes that independent reading comes in a variety of categories: voluntary, pleasure, leisure, recreational, spare time, and outside of school, for example. Within the four walls of my classroom, however, I cannot say that independent reading falls into any of these categories. These descriptors indicate a willingness and desire to read. In my classroom, silent reading time is mandated by me, thereby contradicting the very nature of voluntary reading. My hope, however, is that by participating in daily independent reading, my students will begin to want to read as a means of pleasure and leisure.
Independent reading also includes personal choice, writes Cullinan, and I am making that available to my students. Every day when my students come in to class, they are welcomed by hundreds of books. I am fortunate to have received two grants in the past that allowed me to build a classroom library, and already this school year (we are three weeks in), I received a Scholastic library that another teacher decided she did not want. Her trash is my treasure because that library helps me provide my students with more reading options.
It is my job to get the books into their hands by providing them with as much choice as possible. According to Skeeters et al. (2016), student choice empowers and values, leads to deep and meaningful conversations, deepens relationships, and leads to independence. I keep trade books that I have checked out from the public library in my classroom, refreshing them as they hit their due dates. I have novels of every genre. And I have informational texts and drawing books and brain teasers and graphic novels and comic books.
To date we completed fourteen days of daily independent reading, and although not all of the kids are completely on board yet, each day gets a little better. They are looking at and reading books. They are asking to keep reading once my timer goes off. They are starting to ask to borrow novels. They are starting to discover what they do and do not like about the books they are reading. This past week, a student called me over and said, "Miss, I don't find a lot of books I like, but I like this one" (in reference to Ghost by Jason Reynolds).
In addition, my English language arts teammates are starting to catch the bug. One seventh grade and one eighth grade teacher have now added a silent reading day to their weekly lessons. It may only be one day, but that provides more time that students may not read otherwise. And since my students are also in those classes, their reading time is expanding even more. The rest is yet to come.
Cullinan, B. (2000). Independent reading and school achievement. School Library Media Research,3, 1-24. Retrieved September 1, 2018, from http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslpubsandjournals/slr/vol3/SLMR_IndependentReading_V3.pdf
Skeeters, K., Campbell, B., Dubitsky, A., Faron, E., Geiselmann, K., George, D., . . . Wagner, E. (2016, February). The top five reasons we love giving students choice in reading. English Leadership Quarterly, 6-7. Retrieved September 1, 2018, from http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Resources/Journals/ELQ/0383-feb2016/ELQ0383Top.pdf