Teaching Reading

Independent verse Dependent Readers

In Kylene Beers When Kids Can’t Read, we learn the differences between an independent reader and a dependent reader. An independent reader is someone who will continue reading and use different strategies when a text starts to get tough. A dependent reader will just stop reading or seek help from a teacher in order to get through the text. Keeping this in mind, we see that it is ideal for every reader to be an independent reader.  Since this is the case, Beers discusses methods of transforming a dependent reader into an independent reader. The major problem with dependent readers is that they are lacking confidence in their reading abilities. These methods are based around helping a dependent reader gain confidence in different areas.

The first way to do this is through gaining cognitive confidence. If a reader does not have cognitive confidence, they could struggle with “comprehension, vocabulary, word recognition, or fluency and automaticity.” By helping students gain cognitive confidence, they are more likely to comprehend what they are reading and read more fluently.

Image from Andy Roberts

The second method is to improve social and emotional confidence. This can be caused because a student has a negative experience with reading and are afraid to have another one. This causes the student to have a negative attitude towards reading. If a students confidence is improved in this area, the student is more likely to change their attitude, become part of a community of readers, and start to enjoy reading.

The third method is to improve text confidence. If a student is lacking text confidence, than they are more likely to give up on a text that it hard or just looks to hard. A popular example that I am sure we have all experienced is turning down a book because it is just to big. A student might lack text confidence because they are not sure what genre or author interests them. This could be hard for student because by expanding their horizons, they will most likely come upon a book they dislike but this is helping them figure out what books they like and what books to stay away from. By helping a student gain confidence in this area, they are more likely to work through a reading that is difficult as well as find genres and authors that they enjoy.

By helping students gain confidence in all of these areas, they can transform into an independent reader. This is very important because it will help them throughout school as well as work to make them lifelong readers. Overall, we can see that confidence is something that can alter a readers complete outlook on reading. It is important as a teacher to keep negative experiences away as much as possible in order to avoid a student developing negative attitudes. Teachers can also help by having a variety of texts available to the students to test out. This way they can learn what meets their interests and what does not.


Beers, K. (2003). When kids cant read, what teachers can do: A guide for teachers, 6-12. Choice Reviews Online,40(11). doi:10.5860/choice.40-6539


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