Your child is an independent reader if they desire to read a text on their own, with minimal to no assistance from adults. This text can be anything from a copy of Beano, the label of a cereal box to the latest Horrible Histories. Whatever it is, if it has been chosen by them, on their own time, that is independent reading. And it is a wonderful thing.
One question I am asked most frequently at parent’s evening is ‘what books should (insert disgruntled child’s name here) be reading?’ Instinctively my answer is, ‘whatever they want to read’. There is no point making them read something they have no interest in. Because the motivation to return to it independently will disappear.
Encouraging Your Child to Become an Independent reader: 5 Tips
In these modern times we are currently living in, children are rarely heading for the bookshelf when they get home from school. I mean, why would they? Especially when they have blue screens with limitless access to hours of entertainment at their fingertips?
However, if this is your child, don’t panic! To try and break this habit and get your child to become more of an independent reader, I have some handy tips. These tips have worked with some of my more disengaged readers:
1. Make the act of choosing a book exciting!
We are lucky enough to still have some wonderful libraries in this country. As well as, gorgeous book stores that put so much effort into filling the children’s section. Not just with books either. But with interactive and entertaining displays that will draw in even the most attention deficit child (or adult). My husband frequently loses me to the children’s section in our local book store for a good forty-five minutes (and I am not ashamed to admit it).
2. Give your independent reader a challenge (if they need it)
If your child is a little older and needs something more challenging – most book stores and libraries have a Young Adult section. Admittedlty, this is actually one of my favourite genres now. And these shelves are often full to the brim with authors like Malorie Blackman and John Green.
3. Don’t worry if they haven’t been reading for a long time
Even if it is 5 minutes in the morning whilst they are waiting for their school bus. This is still 5 minutes of no screen time and more reading.
4. Get a bedside lamp
It sounds odd but get them a bedside lamp or a little light for them to read in bed. This will mean they could slot a little read in before bed and might encourage them to. This is excellent not only because they are away from that dreaded blue light before bed. But also because it will probably help them sleep better!
5. Try not to interfere with the book choices of your independent reader
This is a hard one if your child seems to only read Horrid Henry. Honestly, from a teaching perspective, it really doesn’t matter. They’re reading something that brings them happiness and joy, praise it! My job as an English teacher (especially once your child reaches high school age) is to ensure that your child is reading a wide range of texts that date all the way back to Shakespeare. They are fed a healthy portion of fiction, non-fiction, prose, poetry and plays. So we definitely have them covered as far as variety is concerned.
Independent Readers: Why is choice important? (A teacher’s view)
In my (not so) professional opinion…
I would say that any independent reading our children chooses to do, should remain exactly that: independent.
They should be able to choose what it is, how often they read it and how long they spend reading it.
Save the prescribed and torturous texts for school (trust me, by high school there’s plenty of them!) If we take the liberty out of reading, we will drain any remanence of joy out of it too.
Independent readers often develop a lifelong love of reading
I have the fondest memories of insisting my mum would read ‘We Are Going On a Bear Hunt’ over and over again before bed. As I grew older this memory is something I still very much treasure to this day. I knew the whole story so well (and still do) that when me and mum did the food shop on a Saturday morning we would recite the entire book in unison around Safeways (throwback).
Talking with my mum later on in life, I came to realise that choosing this story repeatedly was a little frustrating for my parents at the time but they knew the enjoyment is what rooted my love and passion to read throughout my childhood. Their encouragement and patience is what nurtured my desire to read and resulted in my passion to teach it to my students too.
What it means to be an independent reader
Whilst I don’t have children of my own, every day I spend precious time with my students. Each day I attempt to equip them with enough confidence and skill to become an independent reader. To me, being an independent reader doesn’t just mean taking yourself off to the library to browse the bookshelves. In fact, it means so much more than that.
Becoming an independent reader ignites the drive to enquire, to ask questions, to seek out more understanding and build on the knowledge you already have. Overall, independence drives confidence in our children. And I believe these are essential core skills that all children should acquire.
If you’d like more ideas on how to encourage reading. Then why not take a look at our tips to get kids excited about reading.