We asked our Curriculet curriculum experts to share three essential factors educators should consider when evaluating an independent reading solution for their students. Here are their questions to ask and must-have features:
1. Robust and Flexible Content
Your independent reading program needs to include popular titles that excite students! It should guide them to appropriate books, but let them ultimately select something they want to read. This agency leads to increases in motivation, engagement, and eagerness to participate in group discussions.
It’s also important to consider your existing resources. For example, we’ve all seen new programs go unused because the technology didn’t match up. Make sure an independent reading program is effective in your unique technology environment. Ideally, it should work on any device with a browser, especially if you plan to have students read digital texts on their own devices.
Do you already have printed texts in class you want to use? Do students want to read their own digital texts? You shouldn’t have to pay for something you already have. One of Curriculet’s new features will allow students to read their own print or digital texts and then login to access checkpoints for each chapter.
Questions to ask: Does the program’s library offer varied, diverse and in-demand titles? Do students have the freedom to select books that interest them? Is the platform flexible: Can you read online and in print? Does it work on all devices?
2. Student Feedback & Engagement
Research has proven that “feedback in the midst of work, followed by the chance to put that feedback into play, dramatically improves student achievement” (Visible learning for teachers, Hattie 2011). A good independent reading program engages students where and when it matters most—throughout the reading.
Imagine a student reading “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” As they read, they encounter checkpoints embedded in the text: a video explaining irony; a map illustrating Huck Finn’s travels; a presentation from their teacher; and, short answer or multiple-choice questions with instant feedback. That’s the kind of experience your independent reading program should provide!
The goal is to aid students in monitoring their own thinking about the texts they read, and help them engage more deeply and make clarifications as they go.
Questions to ask: Is your independent reading program engaging? Do students get feedback as they’re reading? Are there scaffolds and interactions within the reading experience?
3. Insights for Teachers
Every teacher wants to answer the age-old question of, “Did you do your assigned reading?” Your independent reading program should give you clear, quick insights into who is reading and how much.
But don’t stop there. Sure, a student may have read, but were they actually paying attention? How well did they understand the text?
Look for a program that also gives you data on student comprehension. Embedded assessments, like quizzes and short-answer prompts, measure student progress in real time and give you valuable insights into comprehension—not just volume.
Questions to ask: Can teachers see what, how much, and how long students are reading on their own? Do they get information that shows how well students truly comprehend texts?
Effective independent reading programs have the potential to increase student achievement and motivate children to discover a love of reading that can last a lifetime. By providing reading materials that are meaningful, independent and measurable, you can grow and support intrinsically motivated readers!