Good students are readers. If students only read what is assigned in school for class study, they will never read enough to become really proficient, nor will they acquire the background knowledge that is so crucial to their future success.
Feeling so strongly about this, I have required independent reading in my English classes for many years. I hope that the materials collected here will encourage other teachers—and not only English teachers!—to include an independent reading requirement in their own classes.
(Some documents below are from my previous web site; some of the links on them may no longer work.)
Higher-quality popular fiction: your bridge to the classics: A list of excellent books accessible to middle-school students that will help them make the leap to the classic literature that they will study in their last two years of secondary school.
An Independent Reading Program That Works!: My article, published originally in the ECIS magazine, “International Schools”, in 2003. I have since then moved from paper to digital journals and book-rating sheets, but the principles remain unchanged.
As a Reader, 2009-10: What my Grade 9s had to say about reading at the end of the school year.
Watch this video in which Penny Kittle’s Grade 12 students confess how little reading they did in the first three years of high school, explain how they faked doing the reading in class discussions and essays, and report on how much they are reading now, after being given the chance to choose their own books.
High School Recommended Fiction List
Recommended pleasure reading for high school students, from Nancie Atwell’s great school in Maine: http://www.c-t-l.org/high_school_readers.html.
Recommended reading for younger students (K-8), from Nancie Atwell: http://www.c-t-l.org/kids_recommend.html.
An annotated booklist for Grades 9-12 (PDF).
My personal Top 20 favourite books for independent reading.
What my Grade 7 and 8 students say about Independent Reading (June 2005).
NPR’s list of “100 Best-Ever Teen Novels”
Favorite Authors of my 12-15-year-old students (2003-04).
A list of favorite books, as chosen by my students (Grades 7-8, 2002-03).
Many books can be found online or as e-books, for free. I have put a short list of sources on this page: Sources of free digital books.
Finally, some feedback from one of my “cyber-colleagues” on the English Companion Ning:
I also want to thank you for some advice you have given me last year regarding Independent Reading – I have taken some of your ideas, changed and implemented them in my junior classes, and I have had (and am having) unexpected, and dare I say, some wonderful experiences and results. The students have really bought into the idea, and I have seen their reading skills, interpretive skills and just general involvement in class improve. I had three parents actually thank me at our recent parents evening, which is something in our school. Your answer just gave me an extra nudge to go from contemplating to doing.