Gravity Goldberg and Renée Houser believe that—equipped with the right tools and information—it is possible to support your independent readers at home in meaningful and practical ways that will get them invested in their reading and keep them reading all summer long.
They recently conducted a webinar in which they defined these five elements of support for independent readers at home that will hopefully provide teachers and families with some much-needed guidance on keeping young readers on the right track through the summer months and beyond.
Help Them Find a Space of Their Own
As teachers, you are proud of your classroom space. You thought a lot about how to design it in a way that students feel comfortable and safe to express their thinking and take risks. You might have a reading nook or couch where your students go during independent reading time and get lost in their book of choice. But do they have that same space at home? By teaching your students and parents that the setting in which we read impacts how we read, and suggesting that they carve out a special place at home—like in the classroom—you are taking the first step toward supporting your young readers. The space could be inside or outside, upstairs or downstairs—as long it's their space for them to focus and engage.
Help Them Make Connections
Reading naturally sets us up for connections--connections to each other through our conversations about reading, and connections to the characters and settings on the page.
When we connect to the characters and settings in the books we read, it reminds us we are not alone; there are others out there who are like us. But it also introduces us to new people, places, and ideas that--if it weren't for the books we read--we would never know about otherwise.
Conversations about our reading are where we learn about and connect to each other. By sharing our thoughts and ideas on the books we read we can feel safer and more connected. Conversations make reading social, whether it's done virtually or in person. So have those conversations with your young readers! And encourage parents to have them too. Readers benefit from talking to mentors and peers about their reading experience and you will learn a lot about your students identities as readers too.
Give Them the Power of Choice
Readers develop ownership by making choices—choosing what to read, when to read, where to read, and how to read. When students play an active role in their own learning it is empowering to them—it fosters identity and independence. Here are some goals you can set up for your readers that will give them a little structure while also giving them space and take agency over their learning.
Lead Them to Empathy
Reading provides many opportunities to build empathy. Books help students understand that there are people in the world who are a lot like them, but that there are also people who aren't like them—and that's good! When we have conversations about reading together, we learn what the other is thinking and about their ideas, which helps us understand where one another is coming from. When you have those conversations, be sure to encourage your readers to open their mind and notice ideas that might be similar or different from their own, and guide them to discover new things about themselves and others.
Encourage a Growth Mindset
When people have a growth mindset they believe their ability is tied to the work and effort they put in. And the more work and effort they put in, the more they will grow in that area. Readers benefit from meaningful feedback that supports a growth mindset. But a lack of feedback, or feedback that doesn't support a growth mindset, can have a big impact. So when you think about giving feedback, first consider the student's current mindset and identity as a reader, which includes discovering what they find challenging. In this chart, you'll find ideas on what to ask that will help you uncover your student's reading identity and find out what they find challenging, which will give you the tools you'll need to give meaningful feedback.
Discover the Teacher's Toolkit for Independent Reading
To learn more about Gravity and Renée's work, check out their new resource the Teacher's Toolkit for Independent Reading, Grades 3–5, which was created to support teachers as they support their independent readers. The materials inside this practical toolkit are also easily adaptable to online teaching. Go here to view example videos and sample materials.