This is about establishing quality independent reading with a genuine purpose. Forget the post lunch book shuffle where kids pick and discard 10 books in 5 minutes.
When you read the Action Research “Can’t see the forest for the ABCs” (See Case Studies) you will see what students thought reading was. Sad! No pleasure, no sharing – imagine not being able to talk about the latest book/movie with your friends.
Introduce independent reading over four lessons. Talk about looks/sounds/feels like then create a chart that lists what the teacher will be doing and what the students will be doing. Practise finding a literacy partner. Practise sitting back to back. Practise turning and talking with your partner. You may notice the word ‘practise’ used a bit here. After each practice, commend the kids who are doing it right. Use the poster Readers think about the meaning (see Resources). Set a time and have a go. Build up the reading minutes over a period of days and weeks. The Australian Curriculum asks that Year 3 and Year 4 students ‘develop criteria for establishing personal preferences for literature’ (ACELT1598). You cannot do that if you don’t have time to realise what your preferences are!
Back to back is the reading of any book chosen by the student. Use baggies to store a small selection and include a levelled text for younger grades if possible. The idea is that the student makes the choice – what do I want to read?
Knee to knee is the sharing of thoughts, ideas and feelings about the book chosen. Students take it in turns to tell their partner about their reading – what did I read? and why did I read it?
Independent reading is essential across all grades. We just need to get it right from the beginning? A framework and a purpose is a great start.