Independent Reading Books

I have a few thoughts on independent reading books. My first thought is that every kid should have one and it should be mandatory that they bring them with them to every class. My second thought is that using independent reading books for class assignments is perhaps not a great idea. When you are teaching a concept in an ELA class that you want all of your students to be able to identify and understand, then I think you really need a mentor text or a whole class novel. Asking students to identify a specific type of writing, a particular author’s craft, a character perspective, or literary technique in their independent reading book is risky. Not all authors use the same techniques. Not all perspectives are present in all books. Literary techniques range from obvious to subtle to not there at all. If you’re tracking plot, not all students will be at a point in their independent reading to be able to speak to a particular plot point. You’re asking for frustration both for yourself and for your students.

If it were up to me–and it’s not right now–I would use articles, passages, short stories, and other mentor texts for class assignments. If I want to really dig in, then I would assign a whole class novel or set up book clubs. I would reserve independent reading for just that; let the experience of reading a book of the student’s choice be an enjoyable one. I can still track progress, engage in book talks to assess fluency, decoding, comprehension, and critical thinking. That is ALL I would use those independent reading books for.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

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