Independent Reading: Definition & Activities

Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

Reading abilities range from student to student. But what really separates the students with high reading ability? This lesson describes how independent readers become high achieving students.

Independent Reading

You are a reading teacher. Your objective is to increase your students' fluency and comprehension. But a reading teacher really does much more. In fact, you could be the only proponent of reading your students encounter on any given day. This means you must also foster interest in independent reading, which includes any reading students do on their own, which often occurs outside of the classroom, but teachers can include independent reading time in class as well.

Besides assigned reading, many students read beyond what is required. These independent readers do not need to be pushed and read consistently on their own. Reading, like any other skill, increases through usage. The rest of this lesson delves into how those types of readers become very competent and highly achieving readers.


Let's begin by discussing why some students are independent readers. There are many possible reasons for this, but a huge part of it has to do with motivation, which is the reason, desire, or willingness to do a specific task. Research has shown a general decline in motivation to read as students move beyond elementary school.

So then, why do some students continue to be motivated? Why do the independent readers not experience a decline? The answer may lie in the type of motivation. There are two kinds: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation comes from within the self, whereas extrinsic comes from an outside source. In terms of reading, if students are intrinsically motivated, they will read extra material for further challenge or learning.

Independent readers thrive on intrinsic motivation. The inner desire to grow is at the root of reading beyond the classroom. In this way, intrinsic motivation is also related to curiosity and inquiry. Many times what the teacher assigns in class will spark the interest of an independent reader, who will choose to read further on that topic. For example, if you had assigned an article on defining global warming, the independent reader might browse the internet looking for current news on the topic.

Traits of Independent Readers

In addition to the motivation, independent readers also have many other traits. These traits help them become high achievers. Furthermore, these traits directly connect to what independent readers will do differently from other students.

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