This post is part of a 5-Day Reading Series. Click here for details!
In the previous post, we discussed the importance of reading aloud and how it helps your child develop fluency, vocabulary, critical thinking skills and so much more. Independent reading is the next step in the process, and it is just as helpful in each of those areas. Making time for independent reading will help children practice what they are learning with texts that they enjoy reading. Finding the right books is key to making this time a success–even for your advanced readers. Here are two things to consider when selecting independent reading texts.
1. Find books that are relevant to your child.
There are few things more painful than reading a book that you absolutely cannot stand. Forcing a book such as this will only teach your child that reading is about decoding words on a page in order to check it off your list.
We want children to enjoy reading and to make meaning when they read texts. We want them to be active readers, connecting, questioning, predicting, synthesizing, etc. We want them to get into the “reading zone” and get lost in the pages of the books they read. Sometimes, this can be easier said than done, and finding the right book can truly make all the difference in the world for a child.
If you have a child, who just isn’t motivated about books, create a topic bank with topics that interest your child, and research possible titles. Keep a log for recording books that your child will want to remember for next time along with recommendations made by friends. Here’s a printout to keep track of it all: Topics That Interest Me.
Some will argue that it doesn’t matter what they read as long as they read, but I would challenge you to consider the moral and ethical values of the texts selected. This blog post by Sarah Mackenzie greatly makes a case for selecting texts that draw your child’s affections towards that which is true, lovely, and good. I strongly encourage you to read it.
A few resources to consider in your search for great books include the following:
Read for the Heart (book)
Honey for a Child’s Heart (book)
Honey for a Teen’s Heart (book)
Story Warren (online resource)
A House Full of Bookworms (online resource)
Read Aloud Revival (online resource)
Sonlight Booklists and Summer Lists (online curriculum catalog)
Preview the booklists together, read the excerpts, and see if there are any texts that inspire your child. Use the printout above or a reading journal to record the books for future reading.
For younger children, Pathway Readers and grade-level readers put together by Sonlight may be helpful. My children also love the “I Can Read!” Series by The Berenstain Bears. Creating a book basket of beautifully-illustrated books for little ones to peruse is also a great way to encourage independent reading for beginning readers. The more you surround your child with great books, the more reading they will do, and the better they will become at it.
2. Make sure to select books at your child’s independent reading level.
So, what exactly does “independent reading level” mean?
Let’s take a look at the three reading levels for just a bit: frustration, instructional, and independent.
A book that has more than 10 difficult or new words per 100 is considered to be at the frustration level. Imagine taking an article and crossing off every tenth word with a black marker. After a while, you’d find it very difficult to understand what is taking place in the text and will most likely grow frustrated and abandon the book. This is the experience a child has when picking up a difficult that is too difficult for him or her. It’s best to avoid the frustration level for independent reading at all costs. These challenging books may be read together as a family read-aloud if the content is of interest to your child.
A book that has 5-9 difficult words per 100 would be considered instructional material. These are the books that will challenge and grow your child as a reader but will still require some assistance from you. In order to help your child be successful with these texts, you may try previewing it together, sharing some insight about the writer’s style, reviewing specific vocabulary terms, and possibly reading a portion of it aloud.
Instructional texts can also be used for projects, comprehension questions, or oral narrations, where the child shares what the text is about. This allows you to see how your child is advancing in order to further his growth in future texts.
Now this is where you want to be. Independent texts are texts that only have 1-4 difficult words per 100. An easy way to check for this will be to turn to a page in the text and count 100 words. The child can then read orally and hold up a finger for each difficult word she encounters up to that 100th word. If she gets to 5 fingers before reaching the 100th word, the text is most likely at the instructional or frustration level. Additional pages may also be used to further confirm the selection. This strategy helps the child select books that he would enjoy and can successfully read without assistance.
Why Independent Reading is So Important
Research has shown that making time for independent reading is often as effective as providing traditional skill-based reading instruction. Studies have linked the amount of time children spend reading independently to their success in academics overall.
Ultimately, the more you surround your child with great literature, the more motivated she will be to read independently. Make it a point to visit the library often, engage in book swaps, or purchase from discount retailers to motivate them further. When implemented along with read alouds, independent reading is a wonderful way to give your child the practice he needs to grow and thrive as a reader.
Did you miss Day 1 of this reading series? Click here!
Click here to access all 5 Days of When Your Child Struggles with Reading: What YOU Can Do.
***This post may include affiliate links. Please read my disclosure at the bottom of the page for more information.***