Challenge #1: Make a pledge to nurture self-selected independent reading every day.

Today we share the first of our challenges to help you cultivate a community of readers before the school year even starts. We’re so glad you’ve decided to come along. 

Challenge #1: Make a pledge to nurture self-selected independent reading every day. Decide when independent reading will happen in your classroom every single day. Put this time on your schedule. Make a commitment to yourself to honor it every day as sacred and non negotiable.


“A child sitting in a quiet room with a good book isn’t a flashy or marketable teaching method. It just happens to be the only way anyone ever became a reader.”   -Nancie Atwell


How can this action help to grow a community of readers?

Commitments drive actions. A commitment to build a true community of readers begins with a commitment to make time for self-selected reading each and every day of the coming school year.

This summer, Christina spent time every single day lifting weights. She made a commitment to herself to get back into shape after letting fitness slip these last couple years. At the beginning of the summer, she asked her coach for tips. His response was simple, yet powerful, “Show up every single day and do the work.” She took his advice to heart. Every day this summer, she’s worked out at the same exact time- 5:00 AM! This was her nonnegotiable commitment to herself.  Now, eight weeks later, Christina feels stronger, lighter on her feet, and has a new found confidence that just wasn’t there in May.

On the other hand, Kari is also thinking about getting into better shape. But she’s taken a very different approach. She’s trying the “When conditions are right, and I have the time I’ll fit in a walk or a run.”  And as you may guess, without a committed plan of any sort, the more flexible summer schedule has actually resulted in less time spent getting fit, than more. In the past two weeks she’s been out on two twenty minute walks and one run. Four short bursts of activity in 14 days… hardly a commitment that reflects fitness as a priority.

The same idea applies to our classrooms. A commitment to build a community of readers begins when we say to ourselves and our students, “In this classroom, we value self-selected reading so much that it’s something we will do every single day no matter what!” Simply put, what we plan for and fiercely defend within the school day is a reflection of what we truly value.

Ideas to Get You Started

  • Set a goal. How many minutes of self-selected independent reading do you intend to provide each day of the coming school year?  
  • Recruit your students to help you honor your commitment. Start by making a public promise to your students that they can count on having an opportunity for self-selected independent reading during class time every single day. Then, askScreen Shot 2018-07-06 at 8.01.11 AM them to help you honor that promise, reminding you and problem solving with you when other activities threaten to infringe on this precious time.
  • Consider soft starts. We first learned about soft starts from Sara Ahmed and Smokey Daniels in their book Upstanders. A soft start is a morning routine that has students enter the classroom, put their things away, and settle in to reading a self-selected book for the first 10 – 30 minutes of the day. Kicking off the day with independent reading not only ensures that all students have protected reading time, but it also serves as a great transition from home to school, and empowers students with choice from the first moment of every day.
  • Decide what’s in your control and what’s not. Special classes such as music or PE may take up odd time slots a few days a week. Or, your school may have weekly announcements or a group assembly at a certain time. But even though some things are out of your control, teachers are masters of problem solving and creative thinking. Below is an example of one teacher’s weekly schedule where, due to things out of his control, no two days are ever exactly the same. Yet, his commitment to independent reading is clearly reflected in the plan every day.

Screen Shot 2018-07-24 at 9.04.28 PM

Questions to Consider

  • What gets built into your schedule first?  What is non negotiable?
  • How much do you value predictable daily time for students to read self-selected texts while you confer?
  • What do you value independent reading more than? What are willing to give up or do less of to make it happen?
  • When your learning day gets cut short for a field trip, weather emergency, or special event, what gives?  
  • If your learning day was only 90 minutes long, how would you choose to spend those precious minutes?
  • Is there someone outside of your classroom that you need to have a courageous conversation with in order to make more time for self-selected independent reading?

Screen Shot 2018-07-24 at 9.20.37 PM

Time is our most precious resource, both in and out of school. The choices we make reflect our values and priorities. Whether it’s making time for fitness, friends, family, or reading both our intentional plans and the things we leave to chance become the story of what we truly value.

Just as Christina demonstrated this by blocking and honoring daily time for daily weightlifting, the first step toward building a community of readers in the coming school year is committing to and blocking a time for daily self-selected independent reading.

We can’t leave the things we value most to chance.

Helpful Links

Bravely Begin: Committing to Things that Matter Most Interview with Kari Yates on the Heinemann Blog

I’ve Got Research Yes I Do, I’ve Got Research How About You by Donalyn Miller

Making Independent Reading Work by Barbara Moss

5 Ways to Reclaim Time for Independent Reading by Kari Yates

We’d love to hear from you. How have you overcome scheduling challenges in the past?How will you start to make this challenge come to life?  We’re sharing pictures of schedules and having conversation about scheduling over on our Facebook group. Come and join us!

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Children’s Book in Image:  We’re All Wonders by RJ Palacio

2 thoughts on “Challenge #1: Make a pledge to nurture self-selected independent reading every day.

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