TEN Ways to Improve Students Reading

To develop students’ reading proficiency and motivation to read, you need to balance instructional and independent reading. Both kinds of reading are the foundation of these ten suggestions.

    1. Instructional Reading: teach students to comprehend and think deeply about instructional materials to enlarge their vocabulary, enlarge their prior knowledge, and develop understandings of complex concepts such as human rights.
    2. Independent Reading: in addition to instructional reading, students read thirty to fifty books a year —books they can read with 99% to 100% accuracy. Like sports, to improve their reading students practice skills and build automaticity in applying specific strategies.
    3. Choice: give students choice in independent reading materials and as much as possible with instructional texts. Choice results in motivation and engagement because students explore their passions and interests.
    4. Easy Access to Reading Materials: one of my eighth graders pointed out, “we need all kinds of reading [materials] at our fingertips.” My hope is that teachers will build class libraries with 700 to 1000 books and magazines on a wide range of topics and reading levels.
    5. Teacher Reads Aloud: read aloud to introduce students to different authors and genres and model how you think about texts. Choose materials students will enjoy!
    6. Discussions: these make learning interactive, help students clarify their hunches, and provide accessible peer models for thinking about texts.
    7. Book Talks: invite students to present a book talk a month to advertise favorites. Over ten months, students will be introduced to 250 to 300 plus books recommended by peers.
    8. Silent Reading: set aside twenty to twenty-five minutes of silent reading at school. This can be instructional and independent reading. Have students read at home for thirty minutes each night.
    9. Readers Notebooks: Invite students to complete informal written responses in their notebooks. Students can draw, draw and write, or write their reactions to read alouds and instructional and independent reading.
    10. Conferences: hold three to five minute conferences to discover students’ reading strengths, build self-confidence, and determine whether scaffolds are needed. Show students how to confer with one another and document their paired discussions.


These ten ways to improve reading provide research-based practices that can help students develop positive attitudes toward reading and read, read, read to build stamina and proficiency.


Evan Robb, Principal Johnson Williams Middle School and author of: The Principal’s Leadership Sourcebook, Scholastic, 2007.

Follow Evan Robb on Twitter: @ERobbPrincipalbanner

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