How Parents Can Promote Independent Reading
by Evan Robb ’80
Powhatan parents can play a key role in fostering independent reading of self-selected books both at home and at school. Help your child’s teachers enlarge their classroom libraries by purchasing books during the annual book fair. Invite teachers to give you their wish list of books that also include suggestions from students. By updating and adding culturally relevant books annually to classroom libraries, collections remain relevant to students’ lives. Equally important, students have opportunities to see themselves in books as well as learn about other cultures. When books become windows into lives and worlds that differ from your child’s life and culture, they can develop empathy and understanding for others. In addition to supporting independent reading at Powhatan, you can also promote independent reading at home.
Suggestions for Parents to Promote independent Reading:
Independent reading should be enjoyable for your child because they should select reading materials that interest them and are easy to read. Avoid insisting that your child to read at home. Their teachers will encourage them to read thirty to forty minutes a night. When your child chooses books they want to read and can read with ease, they’ll find time to continue reading at home. It’s important to note that the time frame for choosing to read at home differs from student to student. Here are seven suggestions for you to consider that can show your child how
much you value and support independent reading.
1. Tell your child what you’re presently reading and enjoying.
2. Find a book or magazine you both can read and discuss using questions such as: How did the book make you feel? Did the book change your thinking about a topic, people, event? Explain. Would you want to read other books by this author? Why? What new information did you learn?
3. Encourage your child to check out books from their classroom library and from Powhatan’s excellent library.
4. Have your child sign up for a library card at a public library and make bi-monthly visits.
5. Include money for purchasing books on your child’s birthday and special holidays. Take them to a bookstore to find books they’d like to read.
6. Have a bookcase for your child so they can create their own at-home library. Having favorites at their fingertips means they can reread entire books much as they watch a movie several times. Rereading can deepen students’ understanding of a book.
7. Know that it’s fine for your child to abandon a book that doesn’t interest them. Reading a book they dislike takes away from the enjoyment and pleasure we want them to experience.
In The Classroom:
What does this look like at Powhatan School? The seventh grade English classroom library was recently updated to include 4,000 new titles. Students participate in monthly book talks that feature unique connections to texts and highlight their own recommendations and reviews of books available in LH103. Parents who are interested in reading and discussing literature with their child at home may check out an additional copy of many titles, and Mrs. Greenhalgh can also provide discussion guides.
“Parents are encouraged to read alongside their children by joining the class in the 30 Book Genre Challenge,” comments Mrs. Bell a fifth grade teacher. “We also work with Room Parents to provide Read-In Days, during which students cozy up with beloved favorites, and last year we collaborated with Room Parents to stock our classroom library with literature rich in content to provide a variety of texts from which students could choose during a themed book club based around Global Mindedness.”
Independent reading is the practice students need to continually improve as readers and apply what they’re learning about reading from their teachers. If students listen to an instructional book on tape, they also need to complete independent reading of self- selected books to improve their vocabulary and reading comprehension. Here’s why. Comprehension is much more than recalling information. At Powhatan, an important reading comprehension goal is for students to be able to analyze a text, use information to think critically and creatively, raise questions to discuss with peers, understand how a book changed their thinking, and learn about diverse cultures in preparation for becoming citizens of the world. Powhatan parents play an important role in their child’s reading development!