Most American students do not read a great deal. In the typical classroom, students spend less than 20 percent of the reading/language arts block reading1. Even a little more reading time can go a long way. In fact, as little as an additional 7 minutes of reading per day has been shown to differentiate classrooms in which students read well from those in which students read less well2. Taking the 7-Minute Challenge—in which the goal is to increase the amount students read daily by 7 minutes—can make a huge difference in students’ knowledge acquisition and capacity for reading complex text. The 7-Minute Challenge is one of the seven actions teachers can take to increase their students’ capacity to read the complex text advocated by the Common Core State Standards (Hiebert, August 16, 2012)3.
An immediate response from teachers is “but how am I going to increase students’ reading when the school day is already so full?” Before illustrating some ways in which teachers can increase reading in an already-full school curriculum, I want to emphasize the purpose of this increased reading.
Why Increase the Amount That Students Read?
One of our goals as teachers is to help our students increase their use of texts as a source of information and learning. Whether they are informational or narrative, texts communicate knowledge. The purpose of the 7-Minute Challenge is for students to make a habit of reading to acquire knowledge. This reading is embedded in lessons and curricular activities; it is not recreational. Recreational reading has an important place in students’ lives, just as teachers’ read-alouds have a role in classrooms. However, the intent of the 7-Minute Challenge is to increase students’ reading as part of instruction.
Students read texts with a purpose. They revisit texts to clarify their understanding, bring evidence to discussions, and offer support in compositions. They read magazine articles to get background knowledge for a novel they are reading or for a science experiment. The aim of the 7-Minute Challenge is for students to use such texts to learn and think, not to rack up numbers of words, pages, or minutes.
How Can Teachers Find Ways to Increase Students’ Reading as Part of Instruction?
Several easy-to-implement classroom strategies can help you “find room” in your day to increase your students’ reading time:
Getting kids to read more means that teachers need to be experts on books for kids. You can’t be an expert on everything, and there are thousands of books that might interest your students. There are hundreds of Web sites that help teachers select texts, but their quality varies considerably. A few focused sites provide the best support for busy teachers, among them the following two:
The most important thing is to allow kids time to read so that they can support and expand their ability to comprehend and learn from complex texts.
1 Brenner, D., & Hiebert, E.H. (2010). The impact of professional development on students’ opportunity to read. In E.H. Hiebert & D. Ray Reutzel (Eds.), Revisiting silent reading: New directions for teachers and researchers (pp. 198-217). Newark, DE. IRA.
2 Kuhn, M.R., & Schwanenflugel, P.J. (2009). Time, engagement, and support: Lessons from a 4-year fluency intervention. In E.H. Hiebert (Ed.), Reading more, reading better (pp. 141-160). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
3 Hiebert, E.H. (August 16, 2012). 7 actions that teachers can take right now: Text Complexity. Text Matters. Santa Cruz, CA: TextProject. Retrieved from http://textproject.org/teachers/text-matters/7-actions-that-teachers-can-take-right-now-text-complexity/