New independent reading program at Bailey deemed success
New independent reading program at Bailey deemed success
Posted on 07/23/2015
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WEST HAVEN, July 21, 2015 — Independent reading time introduced in English language arts periods at Bailey Middle School last fall proved to be successful additions to the classes, according to feedback from teachers and students, and will return to Bailey classrooms again this year.

Educators set up “classroom libraries” last September with books of all genres that were available to students for the 15- to 20-minute sustained silent reading sessions, which were held anywhere from three to five times per week during language arts. Students could read books of their choosing from the classroom or school library or bring some from home.

Though there was plenty of anecdotal evidence that the initiative was a welcome addition, educators wanted more information on the impact it had and distributed a survey to students in the beginning, middle and end of the school year. It gave them data on kids’ reactions to the program and also highlighted the importance of parents’ roles in their kids’ reading habits.

This spring, 71 percent of Bailey kids, or 409 students, said in a survey they felt the independent reading periods made them better readers.

Many changed their attitudes toward reading over the course of the year, with 32 percent of the student body choosing “usually” this spring when asked if reading is fun; that was an increase for some groups or “teams” of students, as some teams averaged 18 and 21 percent when asked that same question at the beginning of the school year.

By the end of the year, more students also looked forward to reading each day and thought of themselves as good readers.

“At the heart of this idea was a simple goal: to give kids time to read and enjoy books of their choice. And then of course that would hopefully lead to students reading more at home, strengthening their literacy skills, and viewing reading as a hobby, which in turn would help them academically and position them for greater success in school,” said Colette Bennett, the district’s coordinator for English and language arts, as well as social studies and library media curriculums.

“The sets of survey results were fascinating because we saw that students really appreciated sustained silent reading periods, and many of them felt they improved as readers. And what was really eye-opening was the number of students who say they share what they read with their parents. This illustrates the role of parents as partners in sharing reading, even during demanding adolescent years, and we want parents to know that and hope they embrace it,” Bennett added.

Bailey English Language Arts Facilitator Jennifer Raba agreed, and said an added benefit is that it can open lines of communication between students and their parents about important topics that need to be discussed.

In the spring survey, 53 percent, or 304 students, said they share what they read with their parents, a figure that came very close to the 56 percent who responded that they talk about books with friends.

The surveys also showed that students primarily get books from the school library, with bookstores coming in second.  The most popular book categories among the students included popular fiction, mysteries and anything that came with a good recommendation from a classmate, according to Raba.

Bailey English teacher Matthew DiGioia said he built his classroom library with popular books like “The Hunger Games,” the “Divergent” series and “Fault in Our Stars” through donations and some of his own purchases and that they became class favorites.

“You always need to keep an ear out for trending books. Next year, my goal is to bolster my classroom library. I really believe the biggest success factor is having books available in the classroom. This is why it's so important to have those popular titles that kids want to read, so I’ll be using the survey for that data,” he added.

This year, DiGioia’s independent reading periods started out as 5- to 10-minute blocks that gradually increased to 20. His classes discussed reading methods, strategies and reading behavior, and for some of the periods, he walked around the room to ask students about their book’s plot, central ideas and characters.

For the upcoming school year, he’s planning on encouraging students to write down new words they encounter in their books and to hold book club-style activities.

Administrators and Bailey educators hope to further expand classroom libraries and use the survey results to improve the sustained silent reading periods for students.

“The positive results confirm that giving instructional time to silent reading was a success,” Raba said. “SSR became the best part of the class. Students and teachers alike looked forward to their time to read each day,” Raba said.


Bailey students held up signs indicating how many books they read during part of the year's independent reading periods.



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