“The most important aspect of next generation independent reading is the emphasis on reading for its own sake.” Yes, we sometimes want students to document their reading, but reading for meaning and pleasure has to be the ultimate goal. For this to happen successfully, teachers need to understand the explicit connection between read aloud, shared reading, guided reading and independent reading. We need to understand the concept of independent reading as “the pot of gold at the end of the gradual release rainbow, the place where students can discover their power and the power of books.” It is about more than just teaching children to read so that they can, we have to teach children to read so that they will!
For independent reading to lead to students “reading for its own sake”, teachers have to do more than just provide the time. We have to lead children to “discover that they don’t need help to read the books that interest them!” We have to provide the time for them to “discover the intrinsic joys of reading.” We have to recognize independent reading as an opportunity to confer with individual students as they work with text that is just right for them. “No other structure or time during the school day offers such an opportunity to so naturally meet students’ individual reading needs.” It is more than just providing time to silent read. It is about providing opportunities for students to become stronger and more independent as a result of successfully solving problems. It is also a time where teachers can observe what things have been taught well and places where instruction may need to change. Next generation independent reading goes way beyond the teacher sitting at their desk modeling reading behavior. The teacher is the mastermind behind the scenes who is allowing students opportunities to read, discuss, and share in an environment that is safe and respectful. It is the place where students can read texts that change who they are, as individuals, and as members of their classroom community.
This is beginning to sound like a lot more work for the teacher than the old- fashioned independent reading block! The good news is that students really are doing a lot of the work! Students are selecting the texts that they read and may be taking brief notes. Students are building stamina and learning to talk about their reading. Most importantly, students are learning to self-regulate when it comes to developing as readers. They are in control of where they read, what they read, how they stay focused and how they use the tools that they have been given. Students have the power to be the kind of readers that they want to be. The teacher’s job is to use this time to get to know their students as readers. What more valuable formative assessment data could there be?