Friday, October 4, 2013

The Importance of Independent Reading

Kids need to read independently. Period.

What is independent reading? Kids choose their own reading materials and sits down where and when they want to read for as long as they want to read. No one checks for comprehension or for understanding. That simple: kids + reading material = independent reading.

What does it matter? First, when kids read what they want to read, they are more likely to enjoy reading. Second, kids actually continue to learn when they read independently. Research shows students who read independently increase vocabulary and become better readers.

Here's some data on that learning that can happen when kids read on their own.
  • Students who read less than 15 minutes a day are exposed to about 1 million words 
  • Students who read about 65 minutes a day are exposed to about 4 million words
We also know that students who read more and who are exposed to more words score better on standardized tests.

So how do you get kids to read voluntarily and independently? There are a number of ways. You can take them to the public library and let them wander around the children's section to find books that look interesting to them. Don't worry if the books seem "too hard" or "too easy." Kids will gravitate to want they want to read and what they are able to read. They may surprise you.

You can go to the bookstore and let them wander around the children's section to find books that look interesting to them. Again, don't worry if it looks too hard or too easy.

And don't forget the magazine section of the library or the bookstore.

Introduce them to books that you liked as a child and find just 15 minutes to read to them. When they discover what kind of books you liked or like, that may generate new or different interests.

As you learn what your kids are interested in--baseball, dance, art, music, origami, whatever--see what books you can find on the subject. Yep, at the library. Or at the school library. They can request interlibrary loans from other libraries if they don't have the books on the shelves, and that can be pretty exciting.

As you and your kids get more comfortable identifying books or magazines they like to read, you may be more inclined to help them buy and download online books.

Keep this in mind. There is plenty of academic research that reminds us that children as young as two and three years old can identify signs, labels, and brand logos. Associating words is a reasonably next step. So exhausting as it might be to constantly respond with words with that small person points, do it anyway. You are exposing your child to words and context and abstract and concrete things, and helping them differentiate and develop in wonderfully remarkable ways.