The Missouri Reader Vol. 40, Issue 1 - Page 39

t

39

wholeheartedly agreed that the exact thing that made IRS so valuable was the fact that it wasn’t academically challenging.

After gathering more feedback, I determined that my honors students needed this time to unwind because it was typically the only non-academic reading allowed all week. My typical students loved this time because it allowed them to read something they were actually interested in and had chosen themselves. Routman (2003) believes that “one of the most important things good readers do is read a lot and to choose the books they want to read” (p. 25). This buy-in is crucial for the skeptical 15-year-old sitting in the back of the classroom who hates books. My students who attend special education classes succeeded during this time because they were able to find books on their level that didn't make them feel like they were struggling. Because students were given freedom and choice to find a book they enjoyed and connected with, they didn’t want to stop reading each day when the timer sounded. And as a reader, there were days when I didn't want to stop either. I loved it that my students were beginning to fall in love with books the way I did!

Student after student has told me how much they love IRS, but my biggest success came in the form of a second year senior who had to take my sophomore English class in order to graduate. Benson (name has been changed) had never read a book on his own in his entire life. In fact, he admitted that he had never come to school enough to read or hear a class novel from beginning to end. It was evident that Benson hated English class and was skeptical about anything involving reading. For the first couple of weeks, he put a book in front of his face and never turned the page. I knew he needed time to adjust to the people around him, so I didn’t bother him. By week three, we started talking about his interests and free time and worked on building communication. It was important for me to learn about what Benson liked, but it was also critical that I learn what Benson did not like. Providing a wide-range of topics and genres in our classroom libraries is paramount for a successful choice reading program. Vacca et al. (2014) contend that “access to a range of text types during silent reading time can increase student motivation for reading” (p. 368). Not only does choice provide students with plenty of opportunities to find the books they like, it also gives them the opportunity to safely find what they don’t like. Most young, struggling readers who pick up a book they find boring will give up on the book…and eventually on reading. If struggling readers associate reading with frustration and boredom, they’re less likely to ever give reading another chance. Students in my classroom know that it is absolutely okay to put a book back on the shelf if it hasn’t captured their interest, as long as they keep trying to find one that does. I try to stress to my students that becoming a better reader

Fifteen Minutes a Day: The Power of

Independent Reading Time and Choice

Jessica Mattson

"If I could hold onto only one thing in my classroom, one tool or concept that has the greatest impact on students, I would absolutely hold onto independent reading time that includes reading choice."