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Encouraging Independent Reading Remotely in the COVID-19 Era

By Marie Havran
 | Aug 28, 2020
Girl reading

To escape the fear of an uncertain start to the school year, I find myself reading more than ever before. I’ve always enjoyed reading, but in this season of social distancing and remote learning, it feels different. Lately, I find myself thinking of my students and considering how I can nurture their independent reading within my virtual classroom. Even with limited access, I do believe it’s not only possible but also necessary for my students to continue turning toward reading in challenging times or to fall in love with it for the first time. My hope is that, as readers, we can continue to grow and have our independent reading take on a new significance. Here are some suggestions of how you can encourage independent reading.

Host a book show-and-tell

Go “old school” and host a reading show-and-tell. Invite students to share their favorite book or what they’re currently reading. This is also a great way to introduce new authors and genres.

Invite guest readers

Although there are many online read-aloud resources available, students might be more interested to see familiar faces or be read to by someone with an authentic connection to the class. You can invite other educators, local libraries, or students’ family members and caregivers to read aloud.

Don’t be afraid to ask students who they would like to invite to a virtual read-aloud. It’s the perfect way to have your students experience new reading styles and continue to build school community.

Match reading buddies

Get to know your students’ reading interests by having them complete a reading interest survey. This will not only provide you with a wealth of information but also reveal which students have similar reading interests so that you can pair them. Encourage reading buddies to check in on each other to offer motivation and book recommendations.

Establish online book clubs

Reading is a social act. Join students together within an online book club using Zoom video breakout rooms. As the meeting host, you can start with the whole class and then place students into sub-meetings for discussions. You will be able to switch between these sub-meetings at any time.

Lead by example

Sharing your reading life is important, and you can do that easily with your students by using the Chrome extension Currently Reading for Gmail. Select the books you are currently reading from their database, and the titles will appear automatically in your email signature for your email recipients to see.

Promote audiobooks

One way to lure students into reading is through audiobooks. Audiobooks provide support for readers of all ages and allow students to hear fluent reading. Promote sites that offer free audiobooks, such as the following:

Encourage book talks

There are limitless possibilities for students to share their reading digitally, but Flipgrid and Padlet are two of my favorites. Allow students to choose which platform they feel comfortable using and have them share their reading and react to posts from their classmates.

Online learning can be stressful for everyone, but supporting independent reading remotely shouldn’t be. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but providing motivation and encouragement for reading is a good start.

Marie Havran is an elementary literacy specialist in Greenville, SC, and an adjunct professor at Furman University. Follow her on Twitter: @MarieHavran.

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