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How can we support adolescents’ independent reading?

Arthur Unobskey
January 14, 2024
Riveting Results Blog

Literacy experts often recommend that teachers implement an independent reading program to get their students reading more. Most states require it to be part of an English class at middle and high school. Yet, studies show that while some programs have a positive impact (Cuevas, Irving, Russell, L. R., 2014), others don’t (Topping, Samuels and Paul, 2007). 

I haven’t seen a systematic approach that works consistently across classrooms and teachers.

Accountability might be the biggest problem. Many students do not do their independent reading, copying a required summary or generating one on ChatGPT. A response journal requires more personal observations, but how does a high school teacher with five classes to prepare and a stack of essays to review have time to sift through response journals? And, how does the teacher assess a response journal when the teacher may not have even read the independent reading material? 

Engagement strikes me as an even more fundamental challenge than accountability. 

If students were really engaged with their independent reading, then maybe accountability would be less of an issue. But many students have trouble finding something they enjoy reading independently. Heck, I’m devoted to my reading and sometimes I have stretches where I can’t find something I really want to read. 

I imagine that a number of you have found a better way—or maybe solved for some of these issues of accountability and engagement, if not all. For those of you middle and high school teachers who have figured out how to get your students to read independently, we’d like to hear from you. As a former teacher myself, I know that solutions can only be achieved by trial and error with actual students.

Please fill out this FORM and share your approach. And for those of you who have run into problems with independent reading, let us know about those issues as well.

We will share your responses with the larger community in next month’s blog. Thank you for your willingness to share.

Arthur Unobskey

CEO of Riveting Results

We want to know what you think.

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The Riveting Results program works because it incorporates feedback from dozens of educators experienced in the classroom and in running schools. Unlike other programs that primarily use academic experts to review materials, Riveting Results gets feedback from educators who have actually used Riveting Results in the classroom to develop students reading and writing performance.

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