Independent Reading in the Classroom

Featured image: Alan Cleaver

The books that are typically assigned in the high school English classroom are classics that do not interest the students. There is an importance to reading the classics, but they cannot be the only thing that high school students are reading. Kittle states that there has to be a balance between books the students want to read and books that they need to read.  The books that they need to read are a few classics here and there that expose them to culture and history. However, they must be reading more books that interest them than they read classics. The books that interest them will build their reading skills and make them able to read the classics. The books that interest them, such as YA books, cannot be placed below classic literature because YA books also expose students to culture and history. Students are also more likely to read the books they choose that interest them than they are to read the classic literature that teachers assign to them. So, why not encourage your students to read anything at all since they clearly are not reading what they are assigned? Why not let our students fall in love with reading in whatever way possible?

I did not share the experiences of the students in Penny Kittle’s video. I always read the books I was assigned, no matter how much I struggled through them. I loved reading in high school. I read at least 40 books my senior year of high school, and that was because one of my English teachers gave me time to read and gave me suggestions on what to read. Reading Kittle’s Book Love made me understand why I did not like certain assigned books through-out middle and high school. In 7th or 8th grade (I think 7th) we had to read Red Badge of Courage, and I hated it. I read it slowly and I did not understand a single thing. Kittle states that when comprehension and reading interest are not present that the book is too difficult for the student’s ability. I hope, as a teacher, that I will allow my students as much time for independent reading as I can, encourage them to read books they may be interested in, and gauge my students’ reading levels in relation to reading that I require for class. I hope to be a teacher that helps her students learn how to love reading.

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9 thoughts on “Independent Reading in the Classroom

  1. I was not given free-reading time in school, but I think it is such an important thing! The middle school here has 9 periods a day (a lot!!) but the last period of every day is reading, so every teacher, no matter their subject, has a class where their goal is to encourage students to read whatever they want and think about what they read.

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  2. Your post brings up a very good point about certain books being read for a cultural or historical purpose, but I wonder if there is a way of teaching this information while still giving students the freedom to express their interests and choices

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    1. It’s hard to move away from collectively reading books as a class and doing assignments on them. Teachers can just do less assigned reading and more independent reading in the classroom and have them write about the book of their choice.

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  3. I’m amazed that you read 40 books your senior year. Kudos! I do think it’s our job to try to find books our students might get excited about. It’s important for us to keep reading so we have some suggestions for students. With regards to reading the classics, I still think it’s important, I think we need to look at how we’re teaching them, etc., to use that to create interest.

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  4. My story is very similar! I read everything even though it wasn’t the easiest. I also agree with you. Why are we not doing everything in our power to get a book into a student’s hand? As long as they are reading why does it matter the content. Anything is better than nothing. It will help them grow as people!

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  5. A balance is a great idea. There are some things that students should be exposed to, but forcing them to read something above their heads only discourages them. I have found that there is plenty in the YA genre that will expose students to the issues around the world. We can guide them through some classic lit gently and allow them to go wild on the stuff they like.

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  6. Wow, congrats on reading the assigned materials in high school. I was the opposite. I read probably one assigned book my entire high school career. I think reading classics in moderation is a very good idea, especially since I am not a fan of most classics.

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    1. I found any excuse to read in high school. Haha, as long as I didn’t have to talk to my classmates, I was happy. I am for sure an escapist. Thanks for reading!

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