A low-maintenance program that allow scholars to thrive with choice and freedom in their reading; fosters independence, accountability and identity in scholars.
After a certain age, the best thing for a scholar who needs to raise her/his reading level and comprehension is to read. Reading instruction and strategies lay on the floor at home, useless, if the scholar is not actively reading something. With reluctant readers, especially, it's not even as important what they read as long as they are putting in the time employing those skills in practice.
Every month, my scholars perform Free Reading. They have a goal of reading six hundred minutes of “textual absorption” in each thirty day span. In the course of pursuing those ten hours of reading, they are free to read at their own pace whatever material they’d like in whatever amount of time per day they choose. It’s Free Reading. Though a novel is preferred, they may read magazines, newspapers, comics, graphic novels, encyclopedias, dictionaries, instruction manuals, strategy guides, junk mail, non-fiction, fiction, scripts, screenplays, transcripts, cereal boxes, soup can labels. Anything. They may listen to someone personally reading to them, they may read to someone else, they may listen to an unabridged audiobook while following along in the book. Textual absorption and forward motion is the goal.
The only restrictions on their consumption are these: their chosen material must be on paper or a parent-approved, parent-supervised e-reader. Browsing the internet does not count, reading emails doesn’t count, watching closed-captioning or subtitles doesn’t count.
Invariably, the scholars will begin to be drawn to that which is more and more challenging, strange new authors, new series, recommended titles given to them by friends. This happens even to the ones who, from spite, read Harry Potter for the 23rd time. Eventually, the hunger for more overtakes and the reading level rises.
The scholars may choose to read twenty minutes per night (which will take them to 600 minutes for the month) and enter their minutes on the back of the slip each night. If they choose, they may wish to read fifteen minutes one night, twenty mintues the next, sixty-four minutes the next, and back to thirteen the following. Their investement is theirs to choose, as long as they keep track of their goal listed clearly on the back of the Free Reading slip.
The assignment is due on the first school day of the month. The scholars must tally up their minutes and place the total on the slip, along with a signature from a parent to verify their efforts. If there is no signature or total of minutes, or if the Free Reading slip is late, then the scholar pays a one-time penalty of 100 minutes (if they like, they can read another 100 minutes to make up the difference). The scale is as follows (the scholar must reach the next hundred to move up; e.g. 597 minutes = B+, 600 minutes = A)
200 minutes = C
400 minutes = B
500 minutes = B+
600 minutes = A
The page comes with two Free Reading slips; one copies them back to back and cuts them apart and creates two bookmark-sized slips from each page. This form helps the scholars keep track of the slip throughout the month; it's easily kept within the pages of whatever they are reading.
This program works wondrously well. Given the freedom to read what they want and the flexibility to read in doses of their choosing, scholars stretch their ability and flex their minds with Free Reading.
by Ken Wolfe
is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License