Independent Reading


Students read independently from a wide selection of fiction and nonfiction books throughout school, classroom, and home libraries. Adults give mini-lessons, and have individual or small group discussions to ask open-ended questions to enable students to generate interesting and insightful responses for later entries in their journals.

The Role of the Educator Is: 

  • to model reading enjoyment 
  • to support students in choosing books to read 
  • to read and discuss a range of different genres 
  • to create a community of readers that include all students 
  • to encourage students to engage in reflection 

What Observers Will See: 

  • students and adults reading books 
  • educators demonstrating, and not just assigning 
  • classroom libraries set up and used 
  • regular library times 
  • documentation of students reading process 

How It Works

Janice L. Pilgreen (2000) emphasized 8 factors for setting up and maintaining a sustained silent reading program. They include:

  1. Access: Books, magazines, comics, newspapers, and other reading materials need to be available in the classroom and home. 
  2. Appeal: Reading material should be interesting and provocative and appeal to the students. 
  3. Conducive Environment: A comfortable place for reading. 
  4. Encouragement: Educators and students share and discuss what they read. 
  5. Staff Training: Educators need to understand the philosophy and process. 
  6. Non-accountability: No required tasks or follow-up language work. 
  7. Follow-up Activities: Keep students excited about reading. 
  8. Distributed Time to Read: Setting up a daily 15-minute time for reading is best. 

Pilgreen, J. The SSR Handbook: How to Organize and Manage a Sustained Silent Reading Program. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, c2000.

Classroom Applications

Build a classroom library by:

  • seeking community donations 
  • joining book clubs 
  • borrowing from the school library 
  • involving the parent/teacher association 
  • calling on the Deaf community 
  • contacting local service organizations 
  • holding a school-wide book fair 
  • asking for discounts 
  • visiting used bookstores and book sales 
  • exchanging books with other classrooms 
  • reviewing budget priorities 

Schleper, D. R. "Tips for Building a Classroom Library." Perspectives, 9:4, (March/April, 1991), 22-22.

Promote independent reading by developing a book response card for each student. The teacher did daily mini-lessons on how to respond to the books. Each time a student read a book, a number would be punched on the card. This gives the students more choice in what to do to demonstrate comprehension

Response Card (PDF)

Schleper, D. R. "SSR? DEAR? USSR? Or DIRT? No Matter What You Call It, Independent Reading Is for Everyone." Odyssey, (Fall 2002), 26-28.)

Use Accelerated Reading with some students. The AR program uses computer-based quizzes at the end of each book. The students are assessed regularly, and they are able to move from level to level throughout the year. Some students like the program because they like being on the computer and it helps them discover their independent reading level. Other students do not like the program. It focuses on simple questions, not deep discussion. When using AR, also encourage the use of literature journals, and make sure that those students who are not succeeding in this program will have other options.

Carroll, C. "Accelerated Reading: Students Use Computers and Books to Advance Skills." Odyssey, (Winter 2002), 16-19.)


Response Card (PDF)

A Good Place to Start

Students can choose from a variety of books, magazines, and newspapers. Here are a few related to Martin Luther King, Jr.:

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: Honoring a Man of Peace, Gnojewski, Carol. 
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.: Man of Peace, McKissack, Patricia and Frederick McKissack. 
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.: Minister and Civil Rights Activist, January, Brendan.

Supportive Research and Descriptive Literature

Cunningham, P. M., Hall, D. P. Self-Selected Reading: The Four-Blocks Way. Greensboro, NC: Carson-Dellosa Publishing Company, Inc., c2002.

Marshall, J. C. Are They Really Reading? Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers, c2002.

Pilgreen, J. L. The SSR Handbook. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, c2000.

Clerc Center Resources

Independent Reading (Odyssey, Summer 2000) (PDF)

"SSR? DEAR? USSR? Or DIRT? No Matter What You Call It, Independent Reading Is for Everyone. (Odyssey, Fall 2002) (PDF)

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