Volume in Reading: The Elephant in The Classroom

By Laura Robb | October 25 2021 | GeneralEducation & Professional LearningEnglish Language Arts

Get lost in a book! Read at school. Read at home. Thrillers, mysteries, fantasy, realistic fiction–whatever genre sweeps you into other worlds and the lives of people.  We teachers wish this kind of reading life for all of our students! However, according to the NAEP  (National Association of Reading Progress), our nation’s reading report card, the scores in 2019 show a drop from 2017: only 35% of fourth graders and 34% of eight graders read at grade level—fewer can read above grade level.  Stop. Reflect. This means that 45% to 50 % of students in our country read below grade level.

But wait—hold on—there’s an elephant standing in this room and its trunk is pointing to a sign that says:

Becoming a reader is not about students’ ability.

It’s more about opportunity!

So what does opportunity mean?  Well, one obvious idea is that to become a reader, to be swept away by a book and never want it to end, students need to ramp up their reading odometers. Yes! Reading books and volume in reading matters!  Like soccer, tennis, basketball—like playing an instrument–like ballet or hip-hop—improvement and growth come from practice!

Students can practice reading and increase their reading volume when schools have an abundance of books: rich, culturally relevant classroom libraries in every ELA and special education classroom! And a stocked-with-books media center with a certified librarian—the heart and soul of a school.  Yes, opportunity means students have access to books they can see themselves in, read and enjoy!  Opportunity also means that all students can self-select books and engage in independent reading every day!  The practice reading that students experience daily during independent reading enables them to apply what they’re learning during instructional reading.

It’s a simple equation:

access + opportunity + reading volume = reading growth

Remember, skills practiced in isolation become boring when students don’t apply them to real books!  Lobby for funding to start or enlarge and update your classroom library.  A starter library has about 600 unleveled books, and the goal is to increase the number of books to 1,500 over time. To help you assess your library, consider these recommendations:

  • Make sure books represent diverse cultures, topics, and a range of reading levels.
  • Include a variety of genres: picture books, realistic, historical, science fiction, fairy tales and folktales, fantasy, graphic novels, informational books, mystery, poetry, short stories, magazines, and newspapers.
  • Order multiple copies of popular books and series.
  • Set up a chart where students can suggest books they’d like to see in the library.
  • Develop with students’ input a sign-out and return system that works for their grade level.

Advertise, Advertise!

Display some books face-out and change displays often. These can feature an author, genre, topic, series, or students’ favorites. Place books against the wall under the chalkboard, on your desk and change these displays frequently.  Share new additions to the classroom library by doing short book talks. Purchase some books that students suggest to make it our classroom library and show students how much you value their suggestions!

A Personal Reading Life

Reading volume matters! The goal of developing schools full of readers can best be achieved when the principal, teachers, literacy coaches and the media specialist become a team and advocate for independent reading every day!

Moreover, independent reading of self-selected books has these benefits:

  • Develops students’ reading identities;
  • Introduces readers to a wide range of genres and topics and;
  • Enables learners to read the world to understand other cultures and lifestyles, and at the same time develops empathy and compassion for the problems people face.

The more students read at school, the sooner they’ll start to read at home. When students read at school and home, they increase their reading volume and develop a lifelong habit that takes them into worlds past, present, and future!


To learn more about the importance of Volume in Reading join us for a A FACEBOOK LIVE EVENT

Volume in Reading: The Elephant In The Classroom

Thursday, November 4, 2021 at 5:30 PM – 6:00 PM EDT

Join Carla España, a middle-grade teacher, researcher, and author, and Laura Robb, literacy advocate and teacher, in conversation about how access, opportunity, and reading volume leads to reading growth for all students.

Find out why reading volume matters and what you can do to develop a school full of readers.


Author, teacher, coach, and international speaker, Laura Robb has completed more than 43 years of teaching in grades 4-8, and she returns to teach striving readers each year. Robb received the Richard W. Halle Award for outstanding middle level educator from NCTE as well as the Friends of Literacy Award from the Nassau Reading Council. Robb is a keynote and featured speaker at conferences and leads workshops all over the country and in Canada. She writes articles for education journals and blogs. She is a regular contributor to www.therobbreviewblog.com and has a series of podcasts with Evan Robb that you can access on https://therobbreviewpodcast.podbean.com