“Students need to spend a concentrated amount of time actually reading, at school and at home. They need to read books that they can read, and they need time devoted to increasing their total reading volume. The amount of time students read independently will grow as students develop as readers and as they get older. Increasing reading volume helps students learn to understand what they are reading, builds reading fluency, and increases their vocabularies. Just like learning to play everything from a piano to basketball, learning to read requires practice.” (Fisher, Frey & Akhavan, 2020, p. 179)

Consistent and adequate time devoted to independent reading at school (a minimum of 15 minutes per day) is a central component for developing lifelong readers (International Literacy Association, 2018). Effective independent reading practices involves:

  • dedicated classroom time for students to self-select and read many books across a variety of texts and genres,
  • explicit teacher instruction on what, why, and how readers read,
  • teacher monitoring and support during independent reading time, and
  • engaging students in authentic conversations about what they are reading.

Incorporating these effective independent reading practices improves readers’ background knowledge, comprehension, vocabulary, sense of agency, reading identity, and attitude toward reading (International Literacy Association, 2018). Access to texts, choice of reading materials, time to talk about reading, and book talks have a positive impact on students’ motivation to read independently (Fisher, Frey & Akhavan, 2020).

Access to texts

  • A well-developed classroom library that offers a variety of texts and genres is necessary. This creates “an environment in which students are surrounded by text so that books are always accessible” (Elliott & Lynch, 2017, p. 103).

Choice of reading materials

  • Independent reading materials must be self-selected (International Literacy Association, 2018). Students who choose their own reading materials not only read more but are also more likely to become intrinsically motivated readers (Fisher et al., 2020).
  • In-school independent reading also enhances students’ motivation to read outside of school (Fisher et al., 2020, p. 176).

Time to talk about reading

“When students talk around text and confer with the teacher and each other, independent reading becomes accountable and authentic” (International Literacy Association, 2018, p. 6).

  • Students can talk about their independent reading with each other by:
    • recommending titles in small group conversations and book talks,
    • responding to a prompt on their independent reading selection (i.e., What is something that surprised you in your reading so far?) and discussing their responses in a small group,
    • describing how they used specific reading strategies in the context of their independent reading (i.e., Where did you make an inference?),
    • explaining how they used their independent reading book as a mentor text for their own writing, or
    • sharing with a partner why they selected their book and the type of reader they would recommend it for.


  • Teachers can engage students in one-on-one or small-group conversations during conferences about their independent reading. Reading conferences are “brief meetings between teachers and students focused on the texts students are reading” (Fisher et al., 2020, p. 172). Purposes for reading conferences include:
    • connecting with students about their reading,
    • checking in with readers about their comprehension and use of reading strategies,
    • briefly providing instruction and modelling,
    • reflecting on and setting goals, and
    • recommending titles for future reading.

Book Talks

  • Book talks provide an invitation into that book for all students (Ripp, 2018).
  • Book talks presented by the teacher and students encourage student choice of texts for independent reading (Fisher et al., p. 178). They are meant to be brief, informal, and regularly occurring book recommendations.


How to Use the Beyond Words Resources to Support Independent Reading

  • Use the book summaries and links to related materials to identify and explore additional titles for your classroom library and book talks.
  • Individual and small group activities provided in the Teacher Resource section offer a variety of options for engaging students with the text before, during, and after independent reading. These activities are flexible and can be adapted to invite students to talk about their independent reading selections or respond to and reflect on in writing.


Elliott, A., and Lynch, M. (2018). Cultivating Readers: Everything you need to take reading instruction beyond the skills to addressing the will. Pembroke Publishing.

Fisher, D., Frey, N., & Akhavan, N. (2020). This Is Balanced Literacy, Grades K-6. Corwin.

International Literacy Association (2018). The Power and Promise of Read-Alouds and Independent Reading (Links to an external site.)Retrieved from https://literacyworldwide.org/docs/default-source/where-we-stand/ila-power-promise-read-alouds-independent-reading.pdf (Links to an external site.)

Ripp, P.  (2018, July 23). How to Easily Do a Book Talk (Links to an external site.)(Blog post). Retrieved from https://pernillesripp.com/2018/07/23/how-to-easily-do-a-book-talk/

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