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5 Ways to Promote Independent Reading in Middle School

reading motivation Sep 02, 2021

5 Ways to Promote Independent Reading that will Forster a Love for Reading in Middle School

I remember getting in so much trouble as a middle school student for lying to my mom about not reading the book I was assigned for class.  I mean, I felt really bad about lying, but SHEESH, that book was boring!  I don’t remember a single lesson learned from the book...except not to lie to my momma.  The funny thing is, I ended up having that book passed down to me from a mentor for my personal library when I became a teacher, and do you know what?  In 15 years of teaching, not one single student checked out that book.  Not one.  What does that teach me when I look back on that fateful lie?  It wasn’t high-interest and wasn’t appealing to me, so no wonder I avoided it at all costs!

As a teacher though, I get it.  My middle school LA teacher might have had limited resources and this was the only set of books that were an option.  I’m not here to judge her teaching or that book, but what I did glean from that experience that I applied to my own classroom is that sometimes students need a choice in what they are reading so they have a greater chance of actually enjoying the book.

I didn’t enjoy reading until I was an adult and finally got to explore and settle on the topics and genre that appealed to me.  I firmly believe this is because as a student, I was rarely given a choice in what I wanted to read therefore, I never fostered a love for it.  Because of that, my mom and I still laugh sometimes at the irony of me becoming a reading teacher!  

It is hard to give over time for reading that isn’t structured in standards, but it is imperative for creating passionate readers out of your students that you do.  The most logical place for this is in an independent reading element in your classroom.  The benefits of independent reading are innumerable.  Here are 5 independent reading strategies that will promote life-long readers in your classroom.

Provide a wide variety of interesting and diverse texts.

Having a rich variety of texts for students will allow them to explore many options for reading to help them find texts they enjoy.  Provide novels, novellas, comics, graphic novels, and informational large font, illustration rich texts for students to browse.  Topics should vary from popular youth novels to informational texts on everything from young entrepreneurs to fashion design.  Give your students the biggest chance available to actually find something in which they love to read.

Care less about reading levels and assessing standards.

Allow students to read books that are above and below their reading levels.  Students who read on a high level are often met with too mature themes and students who read below grade level often have too immature content from which to choose.  If creating passionate readers is your goal, then letting go of a reading level and standards requirement is key. 

Make the reading requirement social.

If several students want to read the same book, let them! This doesn’t have to be a structured book club.  You can allow them to read together during independent reading time or discuss what they’ve read together (so long as they are on task, of course).  You could also allow them to evaluate their reading goals together.

Focus on individual reading goals.

During scheduled independent reading time, get to know your students as readers.  Help them to determine reading goals that are personal and specific to them.  Perhaps their goal is to explore science fiction as a genre.  Help them to find a book of interest and assess their interest as they go.  Or, maybe they would like to become more fluent in reading.  Assist them with fluency strategies they can use on their own.

Make assessments fun.

One of the best parts of finding a book you love is being able to share that book with other people.  Allow students the ability to share what they’ve read at the end of the unit.  Provide ideas like a skit, book review, book preview, or any other project idea they might have.  I generally don’t promote these types of projects (you can read about that here), but for independent reading, I certainly think they are appropriate (and low assessment requirements for you).

You will not regret taking this approach to independent reading in your classroom, especially as you see the excitement students show when they stumble upon a book that they truly love.  If you’d like to save your time in creating an independent reading unit, borrow mine here!  

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