• Independent Reading Libraries

Benefits of Independent Reading

Regular independent reading that is built into the school day aids the development of specific skills and habits that contribute to students’ overall reading achievement. Hundreds of correlational studies have found that the best readers read the most and that poor readers read the least; these studies suggest that the more children read, the better their fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Through successful independent reading practice, students consolidate reading skills and strategies and come to own them.

What are the evidence-based benefits of independent reading?

  • Improves comprehension
  • Builds vocabulary
  • Increases fluency
  • Develops background knowledge and cultural literacy

independent reading libraries

A child sitting in a quiet room with a good book isn’t a flashy, or more significantly, marketable teaching method. It just happens to be the only way anyone grew up to become a reader. And that is the goal: for every child to become a skilled, passionate, habitual, critical reader.
Nancy Atwell, Winner of the inaugural Global Teacher Prize

The Vital Role of Classroom Libraries

Research into effective literacy instruction has often noted that the best teachers of reading have an extensive collection of books in their classrooms. In large-scale national studies, researchers found that students in more effective teachers’ classrooms spent a larger percentage of ELA instructional time actually reading. Additionally, exemplary teachers were more likely to differentiate instruction using their book collections, so that all readers had books they could read accurately and fluently, with understanding and motivation.

What are the evidence-based benefits for students who have direct access to a high-quality independent reading library?

  • Increases reading achievement, volume, and motivation
  • Allows students to assume more agency in their learning
  • Reduces summer reading loss
  • Prevents diminished reading habits at the secondary level
  • Helps students become lifelong readers

Independent reading isn't the frosting on the cake; it's the cake! If students don't read independently, they will never read proficiently.
Carol Jago, Associate Director of California Reading and Literature Project, UCLA and Past President of NCTE

independent reading libraries

Characteristics of an Effective Independent Reading Library

Researchers conducting studies of independent reading programs found a wide array of models and a great deal of flexibility in how programs were implemented to accommodate the needs of students, classrooms, and schools. Through these studies, researchers identified certain features and practices of independent reading libraries that are particularly beneficial.

What are the evidence-based characteristics and practices of an effective independent reading library?

  • Extensive collection of appealing books
  • Wide variety of genres
  • Range of text difficulty levels that are matched to students’ abilities
  • Allows for student choice, but provides guidance in selections
  • Provides regular, dedicated time to read

independent reading libraries

Learn how HMH Independent Reading Libraries incorporate the characteristics and practices of an effective independent reading library.

If the classroom library is adequately provisioned, thoughtfully put together, and interactively used,
it will form the foundation for literacy success.

D. Ray Reutzel and Parker C. Fawson, Your Classroom Library: New Ways to Give It More Power

IRL White Paper

Download a free research analysis to learn more about the value, benefits, and positive impacts of an independent reading library on student achievement.