Choosing books to read and enjoy is at the heart of what it means to be literate. Our classrooms provide a learning community in which each child falls in love with books. Children taste the language and art of wonderful authors and illustrators and expand their worlds through books. When they walk into a classroom that features a library of appealing categories—authors, topics, illustrators, genres, award-winning books, or series—they learn that their days in school will include time and resources to nourish their hearts and minds. They learn that they will have the opportunity to read books they want to read, and they will develop their habits, tastes, and identities as readers. Children learn to read by reading, thinking, talking, and writing about reading. And the research is clear: Independent reading is unmistakably linked to student achievement (Reutzel et al., 2008).
All Roads Lead to Independent Reading
We envision a multitext approach, using different texts in different instructional contexts, to support independent reading. In this approach, students engage with
- High-quality children's literature that the teacher selects and reads aloud to the students.
- Beautiful, enlarged texts that students read together in a shared way.
- Short, high-quality, and leveled texts that the teacher selects for teaching small groups during guided reading.
- Engaging trade books that students choose to discuss in book clubs.
- Individual titles in a classroom library for students to choose for independent reading (organized by topic, author, genre, or some other characteristic, rather than by level).
A multitext approach is coherent because students work toward building a system of strategies for independent, proficient reading across each context (Fountas & Pinnell, 2017a). Students experience a variety of genres in different ways and bring all their understandings to the books they choose to read for themselves.