When I was in elementary school, I was an English learner. I remember vividly sitting in reading block with a book. Peering over it to see what everyone else was doing. I used the book as a shield to cover myself so no one would notice that I was lost in DEAR time or sustained silent reading. I couldn't read the book that was in my hands, but I could certainly look like it. I knew how to pretend I was reading. I observed what everyone else was doing and I played along.
For many English learners this is the experience with independent reading. We know that reading is the best way to become a stronger reader. But for English learners this period of the day can be a waste if support is not provided by the teacher.
The first thing we can do for our English learners is meet with them frequently. Touch base to find out how their reading is going. Ask questions but mostly listen and take note. This conference will guide your instruction for language learners. Much information can be gathered such as language goals and content goals. Meeting frequently also builds a relationship that all students need but English learners especially crave.
The next thing we can do is help our English learners with book selection. Book selection should not be limited to the reading level of our students. This can often be embarrassing for English learners who are reading far below their grade level. Through conferences with students find out what their passions and interests are. Find out what types of books they enjoy reading and get them reading those book first. Even if they are reading books repeatedly at least they are reading.
The third thing we can do for our language learners is provide time for them to discuss books with their peers. Reading and learning are social. The more students can talk about the books they are reading, the deeper their comprehension will be. Some language learners will rely on sentence stems for the conversation. Sentence stems such as:
Finally, the fourth thing we can do to support our language learners in independent reading is read aloud to them daily. This model of proficient reading helps them as them move on to reading on their own. While reading aloud to our ELs, it's important that we model our thinking and stop to allow students opportunities to discuss. Reading aloud is foundational for listening, speaking, reading and writing. This is where we can foster a love of reading and showcase all of the genres too!
Let's not let independent reading become a waste of time for English learners. Give them some extra support and they, too, will grow as readers!