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You’re probably well aware that independent reading is an important component of the literacy block. But how can you possibly find the time to fit it in with everything else you should be doing? Where do you even begin and how can you make it an effective use of time? This introduction to independent reading will hopefully answer those questions and provide you with the tools to get started!

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What is Independent Reading?

Independent reading is an essential component of the reading workshop. During this time students read a book to themselves to develop their reading skills. Students choose the book and how they respond to the text (if at all). As students read, the teacher further supports learning by working with small groups or conferring with individual readers.

What are the benefits of Independent Reading?

Independent reading is extremely beneficial for students of all ages. It allows students to:

  • Learn about themselves as readers. They can discover their favorite genres, authors, series, etc.
  • Practice applying the reading strategies they’ve learned in an authentic manner.
  • Build reading stamina.
  • Improve their reading comprehension and ability to think about the text.
  • Build their vocabulary.
  • Improve their reading fluency.
  • Share their thinking about the text (either in writing or orally) which helps deepen understanding and provides opportunities for peer collaboration.

How do I get started with Independent Reading?

Set Reading Routines

Teachers need to devote time to independent reading. One way to do this is to establish a structure for your reading workshop. A common structure begins with a reading minilesson followed by independent reading. While students are reading, the teacher works with small groups or individual students. Following independent reading, it is beneficial to provide time for students to share about their reading. As a class, you may want to evaluate how the workshop went that day. Discuss what students felt went well or any aspects they can improve upon tomorrow.

Reading Workshop Routine

Obviously, things happen so you may not be able to accomplish this routine daily. Even if you cannot fit in all the aspects, it is important to make time for independent reading every single day.

Establish Expectations

Once you have the routines, students need to know what is expected during this time. They need to know what they should be doing and how it should look/sound. Establish independent reading expectations so students know the behaviors you’re looking to see.

You’ll want to take time to explicitly model and practice these strategies at the beginning of the year. (And you may need to remind students of these expectations throughout the year). Doing so will lead to a more effective literacy block.

Real reading vs Fake Reading independent reading anchor chart The Reading Roundup

Possible Expectations to Establish:

  • What does independent reading look like
  • What does independent reading sound like
  • How to find a just-right book
  • Browsing the classroom library
  • Returning books to the classroom library
  • Setting up a page in the Readers Notebook
  • Writing about their reading
  • Knowing when to abandon a book

Display Posters

Independent reading posters provide a visual reminder to students of the expectations. Having these displayed around the room or in their readers’ notebooks allows them to be more self-sufficient. It eliminates their need to ask you for help so you can focus on your work with small groups or reading conferences.

Some independent reading posters you may want to include:

  • Reading Stamina
  • Picking a “Just-right” book
  • “I Pick” for choosing a book
  • 3 Ways to Read a Book (for younger readers)
  • What Independent Reading Looks Like/Sounds Like
I Pick Independent Reading Poster
3 Ways to Read a Book Poster for Independent Reading
Finding a Good Fit Book Independent Reading Poster

(Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post to download the FREE Good Fit Book Posters!)

Learn More

There is so much more to learn about independent reading that can not adequately be covered within a single post. Here are some places you can find out more:

Professional Resources

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Additional Blog Posts

independent reading benefits
independent reading expectations
independent reading activities for student accountability

You can also get started using the Independent Reading Posters in your classroom! Or download the free Good Fit Books Reading Posters below!

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Independent Reading pin1 The Reading Roundup

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