Monday, June 24, 2013

Results of a survey on independent reading

I asked one of my ninth grade classes to write my a quick note about how independent reading went for them this year. I asked specifically about how they felt about independent reading, how it had changed, if at all, over the course of the year, and what they foresaw for the future. A few kids were absent; I got thirteen responses.  Two were weakly positive; two were strongly negative, and nine were strongly positive.

I expected to get more responses like the two that were weakly positive, saying that reading "wasn't bad" but not granting that it was actually good.  Instead, most students seemed pretty enthusiastic.  Maybe they were just saying what I was obviously hoping they would say, but I like to think they were really pretty happy to get an English class that gave them a lot of time and encouragement to read what they were interested in.  The strongly negative responses were perhaps the most interesting.  One of the kids read quite a bit (a couple dozen books), and the other read very little (four or five books).  But both predict they will never read voluntarily.  This is probably true.  The tone of these comments is a bit defiant ("Reading didn't actually change my year in any way whatsoever"; "independent reading this year sucked.  I hated it."), but I think they were pleased to get a chance to vent their feelings about having to do something every day that they feel they're really bad at.

In the end, I think the independent reading was a good idea.  I have some ideas about how to change it in the future, but I still think this is a direction we should all be taking.

Here are the responses, unedited except for redacting the name of one elementary school.

Weakly positive:

  • It wasn't bad.  I liked it better than class work.  If the book was good, I liked it.  It got better over the year.  I'll probably read more.
  • I think that the independent reading this year wasn't that bad.  It helped me read a lot, which increased my vocabulary.  I have read more this year than last year.
Strongly negative:
  • My independent reading has greatly increased.  I still don't like reading, but if I have to then I will.  Reading didn't actually change my year in any way whatsoever.  I most likely will never read again unless I have to.
  • I thought the independent reading this year sucked.  I hated it.  I never liked to read, and I never will.  the only time I would like to read is if I find a book that I actually like that doesn't happen often.  I Hate independent reading and I think you shouldn't do it next year.
Strongly positive:
  • My independent reading got a lot better for me this year as far as how much reading i did.  Because of the amount of reading we did this year i will continue to read a lot and enjoy reading.
  • I really started to like reading again.  This really going to help me in the future because I want to actually pick up a book and read compared to last year when I would spark note everything.
  • By reading a lot this year, it made me read more books that I really liked.  I also read a lot at home.  I definatly became a better reader and really enjoyed the unit. I think that I will read a lot this summer and next year.  I haven't read more in my life than I did this year.
  • Independent reading this year was at least for me an improvement over the past couple of years. At __________ our teachers never forced us to read that much because we would always be reading a book as a class.  The only problem was I didn't read that much compared to the others in our class.  I would like to keep improving on the amount that I read because my family do so much of it.  This was still a very good year for me even if it may not look like much it's probably the most that I've ever read in my entire life.
  • I liked independent reading a lot more than assigned reading. It gave me an option to find a book I liked rather than a boring book. I didn't read many books over the course of the year, But I read more than I did last year. I would like to read more in the future.
  • I thought that the independent reading this year was a great idea.  I hate reading as a class because I read slower so I have trouble staying up to date.  It has made me more enthusiastic about reading.  I think I will definately do more independent reading this summer.  At first I wasn't thrilled with the idea of reading on my own but as the year progressed I began to enjoy it.  Thank you for encouraging me to read more and thus making me enjoy it more. Definately do this next year.
  • Independent reading this year has helped me advance to a faster reader.  I've read 3 books the whole way through this year, and I haven't done that before.  I've challenged myself with more challenging books this year and I've also figured out what genre I'm most interested in.
  • Independent reading really opened my eyes to reading more.  Some books I really liked and some books I hated.  Independent reading in class really improved my reading skills.  I think you should continue to allow your students to do independent reading.
  • I thought independent reading was great for me.  Whenever I have to read, I really feel like I am reading for myself.  Reading did change for me.  I have developed my interest and skills in reading. In the future, reading will be closer to my fashion.


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  2. Mary LeonhardtJune 24, 2013 at 7:24 PM
    Great comments from the students. I did a lot of this surveying as well, and found what you found: almost all of my students reported really enjoying being able to choose their own books, and having the time to read in class. I had a number of seniors who were excellent students say that they read more the semester I had them than they had read since middle school.

    I used to have the kids rate books as well--both assigned and independent reading. Almost always the books they read independently were rated higher. It's fun to go around the class and have each student give a best and worst book recommendation. Again, the best books were almost always one they chose, and the worst ones were assigned sometime in their school career. Ethan Frome and Great Expectations usually won the "worst" award.

    1. I had some students choose to read Ethan Frome this year. They liked it better when they chose it...

      Thanks for the comment!