Today was the last day of the semester at our high school and I asked my students to reflect on their independent reading experience. I wanted to know if the time we devote, ten minutes at the start of every class period, is worth it (in their eyes). I teach on the block schedule (85 minute classes) and I strongly believe that offering students ten minutes of uninterrupted reading with books of their choice is key to helping them to become better readers and it is essential to helping them develop a love of reading.
This past semester I taught two honors level English 1 classes. I assumed that most of these students liked (if not loved) reading, but I found out that was not the case. Yes, they could read well but they didn’t like reading, and only a few would admit to loving it. It honestly broke my heart.
Over the course of the semester I did my best to help match reader to book. I spent a small fortune updating my classroom library and tried to get the latest hot titles in my students’ hands. Matching students to the right books was key; knowing my students and knowing books was essential to this matchmaking process. I eagerly passed new titles on to the right students and they eagerly devoured them.
So today I was anxious to see what they would have to say.
Here’s the question I asked and some of the responses I received follow:
In this class, we have spent ten minutes nearly every day on independent reading of choice books. How has this practice had an impact on you as a reader? How important is it for teachers to allow time for independent reading?
“It has helped me build empathy towards others as well as reminding me that we are all not the same.”
“It is important for teachers to allow independent reading because it gives students a chance to step into another person’s shoes in life.”
“When we first started the class I would never read because reading is not my thing and I felt as if I can’t understand so why push myself harder? Now since the first day my reading is better and I feel better and confident in my reading.”
“…it has helped me to become a more fluent reader and it showed me that you can really have a love for reading.”
“Hopefully the next teacher I have will allow independent reading because it is very important to me.”
“Reading a book for ten minutes every day has exposed me to so much vocabulary…”
“Reading for ten minutes every day has made me a better and stronger reader.”
“This class helped me learn to like reading once I actually find a book I like and actually get into the book.”
“Before taking this class, I read books that were interesting from the very beginning, now I can read books that have a slower pace as well.”
“I also believe ideals/morals can be created through books, thus students in the future years should read books like To Kill a Mockingbird for a better future.”
“The first ten minutes of class are the best part of class.”
“The consistent 10 minutes of reading has made me a much stronger reader. I believe I can tackle much harder books than before.”
“Not only is reading good for me emotionally but mentally, reading puts me in a calm state.”
“…it gets students into a literature mindset.”
“I think the time has given me more patience for books and to enjoy the parts with not a lot of action. Now I also enjoy books that are slower (paced).”
“I believe it is extremely important for teachers to allow time for reading because it might give the students a love for reading they didn’t have before.”
Overwhelmingly, the student responses from both classes were very positive with most students admitting that they had either discovered a love of reading or rediscovered a love of reading they thought they had lost. All students said they needed their teachers to provide this time and choice to help them continue to develop as readers.
I share this feedback about the importance of student choice and time for independent reading in our classrooms to encourage those teachers who might want to do this in their own classrooms but they’re afraid they “don’t have time.”
When teachers tell me they can’t fit independent reading into their curriculum because there’s not enough time I remind them of this simple truth: If you don’t give your students time to read in your classroom, they won’t read outside of your classroom.