Engaging Students in Independent Reading: 5 Must-Listen Podcast Episodes

As a reading teacher, I’m constantly listening to audiobooks and podcasts. Whether I’m walking, grocery shopping, or doing chores, there’s a 99% chance my AirPods are in. While I love leisurely listening to a good psychological thriller or new young adult or middle-grade book, I like to press play on some teacher PD, too! I’ve found that many podcasts offer great bite-sized nuggets of ideas and inspiration: just enough info to empower me, but not too much to overwhelm me! I especially love listening to new episodes when I’m feeling burnt out and stuck in my routines. I also enjoy listening when I’m feeling inspired to find more ways to help students fall in love with reading.

While I have a great independent reading routine and a collection of strategies to build a community of engaged readers, I am always in search of more tools, tips, and tricks. After all, my work as a reading teacher is never done. It’s always evolving as I learn more, meet new students each year, and adapt my practices to reach those readers. Engaging students in independent reading is about being responsive and reflective. Listening in to conversations with like-minded educators on podcasts helps me do just that!

If you’re looking for ideas and inspiration to engage your students in independent reading and create a community of lifelong readers, here are 5 must-listen podcast episodes:

Engaging Students in Independent Reading: 5 Must-Listen Podcast Episodes
If you’re looking to elevate your independent reading program and engage your students in authentic, joyful reading, here are 5 podcast episodes you’ll love.

Teach Me, Teacher, Episodes 29 & 30: “Donalyn Miller: The Power of Independent Reading

Whether you’re already immersed in the wonderful world of independent reading or just getting started, this two-part series with Donalyn Miller is a must-listen. In this interview, podcast host Jacob Chastain sits down with the author of The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild for some down-to-earth insight on the power and practice of independent reading. These episodes are fabulous because Miller directly addresses common concerns and shares her secrets for making choice reading work.

During the first episode, you’ll hear Miller discuss why we need to make time for choice reading, what to do with students who are disengaged and abandoning books, how to keep students accountable through conferring, and other problems and solutions for independent reading.  In part 2, she shares more about reaching the “sweet spot” of independent reading: how much time to spend on it, how to offer real choice, how to balance it with other types of reading, and how to challenge students while still honoring their reading identity.

You can check out the podcast here:

Part 1

Part 2

Teach Me, Teacher: Episodes 29 & 30: Donalyn Miller: The Power of Independent Reading
Don’t know where to start with independent reading or trying to troubleshoot common problems? You need to listen to this podcast series with reading expert and author Donalyn Miller.

The Spark Creativity Podcast, Episode 150: “Quiet Revolution in Reading and Writing, with Penny Kittle

If you need inspiration and permission to give students what they need–time and choice in reading and writing–this episode is a great place to start. In this interview, ELA teacher Betsy Potash chats with literacy expert and author of Book Love, Penny Kittle. Kittle discusses her approach to making time for choice reading, even, and especially when, this practice is challenged in schools. Kittle is especially skilled at bridging independent reading with writing, connecting the two with mentor texts, writing notebooks, and authentic opportunities to share. While I highly recommend listening to the whole episode to hear about Kittle’s holistic approach to literacy, if you’re just looking to learn about independent reading, you can tune in to the first half.

You can check out the podcast HERE.

Spark Creativity: Episode 150: Quiet Revolution in Reading and Writing with Penny Kittle

Brave New Teaching, Episode 140: “Independent Reading Series: Interview with Abby Gross”

Have you ever been so curious about how I teach reading that you’d love to observe me teach for a day? Well, this podcast is the next best thing! In this episode, I sit down with one of my favorite fellow ELA teachers, Amanda Cardenas, to discuss my approach to independent reading in middle school. Amanda and I first met when we were both teaching high school, but now that I’ve fallen in love with 7th grade, she was curious to hear about how my approach to teaching reading has transformed in my transition.

During our chat, I share some untold parts of my teaching journey, including how I did a disserve to my former students by not prioritizing independent reading and what I’d change if I ever go back to high school. Amanda and I chat about how independent reading works in my classroom, my favorite strategies for getting books into readers’ hands, and the big question of accountability. We chat about Book Trailer Tuesday, our fun book buzzer routine, First Chapter Friday, independent reading conferences, book recommendations, and more!

I very rarely agree to podcast interviews, because I’d much rather publish blog posts than record a podcast and have to listen to myself speak. But this episode with Brave New Teaching was a blast to record because I am so passionate about all things reading. It’s like my manifesto for independent reading, and I’m so proud of it. If you’ve ever been curious about how I help my students fall in love with reading, I hope you’ll give it a listen!

You can check out the podcast and grab a free workbook for this independent reading podcast series HERE.

Brave New Teaching: Episode 140: Independent Reading Series: Interview with Abby Gross
I’m biased, but I’m pretty proud of this podcast episode I recorded with my dear friend Amanda Cardenas from Brave New Teaching! In it, I give listeners a glimpse into how I’ve radically shifted my ELA instruction to support joyful independent reading.

Heinemann Podcast: “Trusting Readers, Trusting Ourselves” (June 3, 2021)  

If you’re looking for research-based validation and support in structuring reading conferences, this is one episode you don’t want to miss. In this interview, authors Jennifer Scoggin and Hannah Schneewind talk about the research and philosophy behind their book, Trusting Readers: Powerful Practices for Independent Reading. If you haven’t checked out their book, the episode serves as a great introduction to it. I enjoyed this podcast so much that I immediately ordered a copy of the book. (Update: It’s incredible.)

Even if you have read their book, this episode is full of great reminders and encouragement to trust yourself as a teacher and trust your students as readers. The authors’ student-centered, responsive approach is both practical and empowering. Much of their work is based on listening to what teachers struggle with and problem-solving to find solutions that work in real classrooms. You’ll especially love their guidance on the different types of reading conferences and how to move students forward with each meeting.

You can check out the transcript of the podcast HERE.

Cult of Pedagogy, Episode 84: “How to Stop Killing the Love of Reading with Pernille Ripp” 

Any secondary ELA teacher knows that students’ love for reading often fades away sometime between elementary and high school. We’ve all met students who proudly proclaim that they “hate reading” and brag about how they haven’t read a whole book in years. Unfortunately, this is a reality in many secondary classrooms. But what if we didn’t accept this as the norm? What if we challenged common practices, honored students’ attitudes, and worked together to change the status quo of reading instruction? Educator and literacy expert Pernille Ripp is doing just that. In this episode, she speaks from the heart and shares the research behind her radical student-centered independent reading philosophy.

During this conversation with podcast host Jennifer Gonzalez, Ripp speaks some truth about questioning current practices and reading intervention programs that don’t work. Ripp’s realistic and reflective wisdom is calm, refreshing, and empowering. The episode is a great primer for her book Passionate Readers, which I highly recommend as well.

You can check out the transcript of the podcast HERE, read Ripp’s blog HERE, and check out her book HERE.

I hope these podcast episodes help you level up your independent reading program and hook your students on good books.

If you’re looking for more ideas and inspiration, check out the following blog posts:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *