Independent Reading Develops Fluency (page 2)
Independent reading is a critical daily component of a balanced reading program in any classroom. Some significant amount of time every day in every classroom should be devoted to children choosing for themselves something to read and then settling down to read it. Independent reading is often promoted in terms of the motivation and interest children develop as they have time to pursue their own personal interests through books. In addition, the amount of reading children do is the biggest variable in their word fluency, and children who engage in regular self-selected reading read a lot more than children who don't.
All a teacher of young children has to do to have a successful self-selected reading program is to provide a good reading model through daily teacher–read aloud, schedule time each day for children to read books they choose, and provide a wide variety of books on all different levels and of many various types. For older children—particularly children who are not fluent readers—it is not so easy. These nonfluent older readers don't think of themselves as good readers and don't want to read the easy books they deem "baby books!"
Linda Fielding and Cathy Roller attack this "baby book attitude" head on in a 1992 Reading Teacher article, "Making Difficult Books Accessible and Easy Books Acceptable." Among the ideas for making difficult books accessible are:
- Provide independent reading time when children can self-select books (including nonfiction) and interact with others about what they learn from these books.
- If books are too difficult for most children to read, read these aloud to them.
- Partner the children, putting a more able reader with a less able reader.
- Provide lots of rereading opportunities because difficult material becomes easier each time it is read.
- Precede difficult books on a topic with easier books on that topic to build background knowledge.
All these suggestions will help children read with more fluency even when the material they are reading is more difficult than it should optimally be.
Among their many practical ideas for making easy books acceptable, Fielding and Roller suggest:
- Model, by reading aloud, the use and enjoyment of easy books.
- Alter purposes for easy reading by having older children read these books to younger buddies.
- Allow children to make tape recordings of favorite books.
- Make the expanding world of nonfiction books readily available.
I have seen all four of these strategies successfully used and even a combination that worked like this. A fourth-grade teacher with many children still reading—not very fluently—at first- and second-grade levels decided that the children needed to do lots of easy reading. She partnered each child with a kindergartener and arranged for a weekly reading time. She then gathered up a lot of easy books, including many Dr. Seuss titles, Clifford books, and many nonfiction picture books. Across the course of a week or two, she read these books to her children and let each child choose one book to prepare to read to the kindergarten buddy. When the children had chosen their books, they practiced reading the book several times—with a partner—to the tape recorder and finally to the teacher. By the time her children trotted down to the kindergarten—easy books proudly in hand—all the children were fluent readers of their book.
Following their return to the fourth grade, they talked about their experience with their kindergarten buddies and whether or not their book was a good choice. The teacher made a chart on which each child listed the book read aloud that week. The following day, the teacher and the children gathered and reviewed the chart showing who had read what. The teacher also reminded them of some other books no one had chosen the first week and led them to choose their second book. The partner reading, tape-recorder reading, and reading to the teacher continued as it had for the first week except that, if a child chose a book that another child had read the previous week, that child became the "expert" on that book and read the book to or listened to the new reader read the book at least once. The second trip to the kindergarten went more smoothly than the first, and the children returned, discussed the kindergarteners' responses to the books, and listed the second book they had read on the chart.
By the fourth week, the easy-reading-for-fluency program was up and running with minimal help from the teacher. Many children chose books their friends had chosen previously, and they enjoyed reading together and often tape recording the book together in preparation for performing their weekly "civic volunteer" duty!
© ______ 2009, Allyn & Bacon, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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