Developing consistent independent reading habits allows students to practice reading skills, promotes choice, increases confidence, and develops a love for reading; however, many students need help to develop these habits.
Creating a classroom culture that shows students and families that you value independent reading along with classroom assignments and activities can provide the motivation, accountability, and encouragement students need to establish consistent reading habits without a need for reading logs.
Reading logs facilitate a culture around reading that promotes the idea that reading is such a chore that students can’t be trusted to do it without getting an adult’s signature. When students have to time their reading, they can hyper-focus on the timing of their reading instead of learning to stop at a natural stopping point.
Independent reading is a consistent focus in my classroom, and I’ve found various ways to hold students accountable and promote a love of reading without using reading logs.
Fostering a Love of Reading
Connect with families: Instead of asking families to sign a reading log, partner with them and ask them to encourage students to consistently read at home and create habits around reading. Be realistic and acknowledge that some days students may read for a longer period of time than others, and some days they may not have to read at all, but creating a habit of reading will benefit them as readers and as students in all of their subjects.
Make the connection to students and families that reading, like playing a sport, learning how to play an instrument, or learning any other skill, requires practice to improve, and while practice might not always be easy, it should be enjoyable. One way to help make it fun is to allow students to choose their independent reading books, provide access to high-interest books, and let students know that if they’re not enjoying a book, they can abandon it and find a new one.
Weekly goals: Each Monday, have students set a reading goal for themselves and reflect on how they did with their previous week’s reading goal. These goals should be individual and based on how they want to challenge themselves.
Quick responses: Ask students a question about their nightly reading that they can answer quickly. They can do this during a few minutes of class time a few times a week. For older students, it may be appropriate to ask “Why” to explain their answers and/or use details from the book to support their answers. Younger students may benefit from choices and/or the opportunity to draw their answers. Here are some examples of quick responses:
- How did your reading make you feel?
- What is one word you would use to describe the main character in your book?
- Why did you choose your book?
- Would you want to be friends with the main character?
- Would you want to live in the setting of the book?
Reading partners: Assign or allow students to choose reading partners to share about the books they’re reading a few days a week. Students may benefit from guiding questions to have these conversations.
Favorite Fridays: Create space and time in class for students to recommend to their classmates books they’ve read and enjoyed during their independent reading.
Reading chats: Whenever time allows, have informal individual conversations with students about reading. Share what you’re reading, and ask them about what they’re reading. Letting them know you’re interested in their reading life and showing them how much fun it can be to talk about reading will encourage students to read and add to the conversation.
Reading webs: Get the whole class involved in sharing their reading by having one student stand up and share one thing about their book, then any other class member who can connect their book to the previous share stands up and shares how it connects and adds something new about their book. This continues until everyone has connected their book to someone else.
Quick connect: Ask students to make one connection between the book they’re reading and themselves, the world, or another book. They can share their connection with a friend, write it down, or draw it.
Monthly reading challenges: Create a reading bingo board with different reading challenges, and have students fill in their board as they complete the challenges. Students can create their own monthly goals as to how many blocks they hope to fill in.
Reading pledge: Instead of parents and/or the child signing nightly that the child has read a certain number of minutes each night, create a reading pledge with your students and families that both sign at the beginning of the year, which states that they will make time for independent reading at home. You can personalize the pledge based on the grade level, needs, and goals of each student.
#AmReading board: Create a space in the classroom to display images of books that students have read or are reading. For younger students, who are likely reading shorter but more books, they can choose one book they’ve recently enjoyed to submit for the board.
Older elementary and middle school students who are likely reading the same chapter book over a longer period can submit each book they’ve finished reading to display on the board.
Providing students with the motivation, encouragement, and accountability needed to read independently on a consistent basis helps them develop reading habits that will lead to increased confidence, improved reading skills, and opportunities to find books that they enjoy reading.