The Missouri Reader Vol. 40, Issue 3 - Page 16


readers in and out of school, as noted by Stairs and Burgos (2010) when they conducted a study in a middle school classroom and found that 92% of students enjoyed the books they chose on their own rather than the book chosen for the whole class by the teacher. Students often find reading mandated by their schools unrelated to their own lives. This could create situations where students would reject reading or simply become unengaged (Kasten & Wilfong, 2005). There is research that acknowledged that increasing independent reading time may not be enough to improve reading achievement. Such studies showed that student engagement and the quality with which reading was practiced may be a better indicator of fluency and comprehension improvement (Topping et al., 2008).

To combat the lack of student engagement, many researchers and professionals have studied ways to improve classrooms and build student engagement. Some of the ideas that have developed are: more free choice in book selection for students, larger selections of texts in genres and levels in classrooms and school libraries, and student led book talks as Walker (2013) points out, “If we want students to become lifelong readers, then we must provide them encouragement and support to read during the school day” (p. 186).

Walker (2013) provided a list of components that can be included in just about any classroom to help make independent reading time a more positive and growth oriented experience for students. The list is as follows:

● An accessible, organized, leveled classroom and/or school library

● Appropriate matching of students and texts

● Student- and teacher-led book talks

● Quarterly reading goals set by students

● Consistent time to read independently

● Active teacher instruction, guidance, interaction, and monitoring of students

● Teacher facilitation of regular book conferences with students

● Independent student reading log and response portfolio

● Book response opportunities

● Recognition and feedback for students’ independent reading

Each of the strategies could increase students’ engagement and provide learners accountability to themselves, their peers, and their teachers.

Achievement. Many researchers have linked higher reading comprehension scores and scholastic achievement and other researchers have pointed out that there is also a relationship between reading fluency and the amount of time students’ spend independently reading (Reis, Eckert, McCoach, Jacobs, & Coyne, 2008). According to the research of many scholars and professionals, independent reading can make a large impact on student achievement. Due to this research schools are now beginning to make time in each school day to allow students to choose their own books and just read (Serravallo, 2014).

Sanden (2014) in her study states that, “For independent reading to contribute to students’ reading achievement, teachers understood that they must be purposeful in their instruction” (p. 169). There are many different ideas about what is necessary to make independent reading successful in helping students to improve on scholastic achievement. It has been pointed out by Frey, Lee, Tollefson, Pass, and Massengill (2005) that independent reading needs to be used along with a balanced literacy approach in the classroom. In this approach there would be time set aside not only for independent reading, but read-alouds, shared readings, interactive writing, and independent writing. In this study Frey et al. also stated that, “with an emphasis on reading and literacy in our schools, it becomes increasingly important that educators evaluate the process and outcome of schoolwide approaches to reading instruction” (p. 280). Students need specific instruction that involves learning how to use skills needed for successful independent reading such as modeling, guided practice, independent practice, and assessment and/or anecdotal notes. Another valid way of encouraging to children to independently silently read is to goal set in their independent reading time and then keep track of when the goals are met (Serravallo, 2014). Evidence has shown that when students spend large amounts of time actively involved in reading their achievement goes up (Reitsma, 1988).

2012). However, teachers’ buy-in can sometimes be difficult to achieve because individual classroom practices can be very difficult to change. Research suggests that to achieve teachers’ buy-in it will take years of training through constant monitoring in the suggests that to achieve teachers’ buy-in it will take years of training through constant monitoring in the

Figure 1