Teachers often ask me about the best research-based strategies to use for teaching
reading. The answer: Daily reading practice. Just as one practices a musical instrument or an
athletic skill; students need daily reading practice if they are to improve their reading skills.
Students in the primary grades generally need a minimum of 15 minutes of independent reading
practice each day (although more is always better). Students in the intermediate grades generally need a minimum of 20 minutes of independent reading practice every day. Students in high school generally need a minimum of 30 minutes of independent reading practice every day.
These times are merely suggestions to give you a sense of where to start. It may take time
initially to develop the reading stamina necessary to read this for long, especially if students
haven’t had experience with independent reading.
The amount of reading students do is highly correlated with their reading achievement.
As well, extensive reading has been linked to improvement in general knowledge, vocabulary,
spelling, verbal fluency, and reading comprehension. Also, the amount of reading students do is
positively correlated with word identification skills, academic achievement, comprehension,
reading fluency, and writing. Finally, increasing the time spent reading independently has been
shown to be an effective way to reduce the gap between high and low achieving readers.
In schools, simply providing space every day to practice reading will have a powerful
effect. However, two points:
1. Students independent reading practice needs to be at their independent level or below.
If students are reading books that are frustrating, they will not want to read. There is no such
thing as a book that is “too easy”. As adults, we enjoy books of varying levels. I am 60 years
old and I still enjoy good Young Adult literature. The important thing is that students are
immersing themselves in text and practicing creating meaning with print.
2. Students need to select the books they want to read. Can you imagine going into a
library or book store and being assigned a book on the way in? Would you return? Certainly
not. So it is with students. They need to be able to choose books that are of interest to them.
This means classrooms need to be full of good books of a variety of genres, subjects, and reading levels.