Goals/Benefits Time/Structure Sample Lessons Routines Texts Assessment


Independent Reading Home

“To us, the most important thing is that students identify themselves as readers.” – Denise N. Morgan, et al., Independent Reading: Practical Strategies for Grades K-3

“At its heart, independent reading should be a place where joy and rigor meet.” www.weteachnyc.org Reading with Power and Passion


How To Use The Independent Reading Module:

This module explores independent, self-selected reading in the primary grades (K-2).  The correlation between reading achievement and the amount of reading children do is well established (Allington, 2011, Cullinan, 2000).  Simply put, children who read more succeed more.  Yet the school day sometimes gets so full of various types of instruction that what gets lost is time to settle in and just read – to put into practice all those skills and strategies while reading books each child chooses and enjoys.  This module is designed to support teachers in creating classrooms where Independent Reading (IR) is consistent, productive, pleasurable, and motivating to students.


Another benefit of IR in school is the role it can play in combatting summer reading loss. Studies show low-income students may lose 2-3 months in reading achievement, while children in higher economic brackets make small gains over the summer.  This gap widens each year, with lower income children falling more than two and one-half years behind their more affluent peers by the end of fifth grade. (Cooper, 1996, cited by Cahill, et al., 2013).  Therefore, IR in school is also a powerful tool to increase the likelihood that children continue to read at home and over the summer.  In the classrooms highlighted in this module, children are developing habits of IR that also provide them tools to use when outside support is not available.


The Sections of this module are briefly described below.   Facilitator Notes for leading a PLC session or for individual use accompany each section.  Suggested Readings are also provided for delving further into each topic.


The Goals and Benefits section explores the purposes of independent reading in the classroom, and essential ingredients to make it successful.  Researchers, teachers, and students discuss this topic through videotaped interviews.  Ways to harness the power of independent reading in the classroom to decrease summer reading loss are also addressed.


In the Time and Structure section, South Carolina teachers discuss why and how they organize independent reading in their classrooms.   There is not one “right way” to integrate independent reading into overall literacy instruction.  What is consistent among the teachers interviewed is their commitment to providing this time for their students.   All the teachers incorporate a mini-lesson, IR with conferring, and sharing into their IR repertoire.  Classroom examples of conferring and different types of sharing are shown.


The Sample Lessons section provides video clips of classroom implementation of independent reading in South Carolina K-2 classrooms. Each sample shows a mini-lesson, independent reading with conferring, and sharing.  This section also includes teacher commentary on their lessons, anchor charts, student response samples, teacher record-keeping examples, and correlations to South Carolina College and Career-Ready Standards for English Language Arts. It shows how the topics discussed in the other sections of this module fit together in action.  Depending on your familiarity with IR, you may want to view the remaining sections before watching the Sample Lessons, or intersperse the lessons with the other sections.   While situated in one grade level, each classroom example provides insights relevant to teachers across all primary grades.


To focus on… See Sample Lessons…
Early print strategies Early Meaning, Make a Plan
Using running record notations in conferring Focus on Fluency
Comprehension of nonfiction texts Find Important Facts, Learn from Nonfiction
Teaching procedures to support IR Make a Plan, Book Frenzy


In the Routines section, we explore procedures vital to successful independent reading.    What do we teach children about the expectations of IR time?  How do we help them build stamina to read for extended periods?  Interviews, pictures, and video clips of classroom practice show how teachers establish and use procedures to maximize student engagement while they read.


In the Texts section, teachers and researchers weigh in on book selection, and developing and organizing classroom libraries.  In addition to interviews and artifacts, kindergarten students are interviewed about how they choose “Just Right” and “Look” books.  Suggestions are given for exciting students about reading new books, including excerpts from a “Book Frenzy” (shown in full in Sample Lessons).


In Assessment, teachers provide examples of their various methods of note-taking and record-keeping to maximize the impact of their conferences.   The use of running records, anecdotal notes, and digital tools are examined.  Teachers also share how they hold young readers accountable for their use of reading time. Clemson professor Linda Gambrell explains some of the pitfalls of relying on extrinsic rewards to foster accountability, and offers some alternatives.


We would like to thank the following for their participation in this module:

  • Irby DuBose, Kindergarten Teacher, Pate Elementary School, Darlington, SC
  • Katena McDonald, 5K Teaching Assistant, Pate Elementary School, Darlington, SC
  • Apryl Whitman, First Grade Teacher, Meadowfield Elementary School, Columbia, SC (Richland 1)
  • Christy Long, Second Grade Teacher, Inman Elementary School, Inman, SC (Spartanburg 1)
  • Michelle Johnson, Student Teacher, Inman Elementary School, Inman, SC
  • C.C. Bates, Associate Professor of Literacy Education, Clemson University – Director, Reading Recovery and Early Literacy Training Center for South Carolina
  • Linda B. Gambrell, Distinguished Professor of Education, Clemson University
  • Denise N. Morgan, Professor of Literacy Education, Kent State University