Independent Reading and Academic Success

Published 20 Dec 2016

Independent Reading and Academic Success: A Literature Review


Learning takes place through different processes. As a child grows physically, mentally, and socially, he also needs to develop cognitive skills. Schools have been designed to guide the students in achieving literacy and preparation for their future lives. Perhaps the most important role of teachers in the lives of students is the stimulation, motivation, and the development of the love for learning in the students. If this were developed in the student, then he will be able to seek learning by himself and learn independently. Even if there are different methods and styles of learning depending on the personality of an inpidual, it cannot be denied that reading is still one of the most effective means of learning. In order to facilitate learning, there should be independent reading. Independent reading can be measured as successful or not based on a person’s reading fluency and reading comprehension.

One way to measure learning is academic success. Through this, it means that teachers and other authorities of education recognize that a student has indeed learned a lot. The purpose of this essay is to review several literatures that have been written concerning the relationship of independent reading and academic success.

Independent Reading

Independent reading is closely connected with academic success and learning. The reading skills of a person is a determinant of the rate of his accumulation of knowledge (Pang, Muaka, Bernhardt & Kamil, 2003). Thus, if a person reads more, the tendency is for him to learn more.

Reading comprehension is closely connected with an inpidual’s level of reading fluency (Johns, 1990). Learning how to read is a very complex process. It starts of course with the recognition of letters and words and their association with sounds and meaning. This process varies among different people depending on their training, practice, and intelligence. With a higher level of fluency, they shall be able to decode meanings more quickly (Torgesen, Rashotte, Alexander, Alexander & McPhee, 2003).

In order to demonstrate reading fluency, the inpidual should be able to identify words and sounds accurately. If a person could not identify words accurately, then the meaning that will be generated will not be accurate too (Hudson, Lane, & Pullen 2000). The speed of reading is also important. It should be done on a leisurely pace—neither too fast nor too slow in order to facilitate better learning. The rhythm and the tone used in reading is also important since intonation and emotions in the text is also an indication that a person truly understands the text being read.

Another important process in independent reading is comprehension, which refers to the way that facts and figures are integrated meaningfully into an understandable framework (Smith, 1994). By reading, a person becomes exposed to more facts and learning materials, which become the building blocks of ideas and knowledge. Metaphorically speaking, reading is a process of accumulating materials in building a house of knowledge.

Intelligence is, of course, highly involved in the process of reading and generating comprehension from the materials being read. Through independent reading, vocabulary is also enriched. In fact, vocabulary also enhances a person’s level of comprehension and ability to deduce meanings from words (Donlan and Singer, 1989). In sum, independent reading enhances reading fluency and comprehension.

Academic Success and Achievement

If a person engages in independent reading, the more he learns. The more he learns, the more successful he will be in his academic life. History is replete with examples of persons, who despite their economic limitations, read books and articles and became very successful. Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison both highlighted that self-directed or independent reading is essential for the development of intelligence and knowledge (Schunk & Zimmerman, 1994).

Independent reading is also a mark of perseverance according to Schunk and Zimmerman (1994). The two authors have presented stories of young people from poor countries and neighborhood who had to get up early so that they will be able to help in working for their family and catching up with their lessons. For these inpiduals challenged by their economic conditions, they showed persistence and an intense desire to learn. As a result, they managed to get the best out of their efforts.

Through independent reading, the student is able to rise above the expectations of his teachers. Instead of simply relying on the teacher for inputs and knowledge, the student who engages in independent reading shows curiosity and self-reliance in learning (Schunk & Zimmerman, 1994). By doing so, the student then gets ahead of his classmates in terms of the lessons that he comes across. Through repeated practice of independent reading, the student then becomes more advanced than his classmates. As a result, the student becomes successful academically and displays proficiency in certain subject areas compared with his classmates who do not read independently.


  • Donlan, D. & Singer, H. (1989). Reading and Learning from Text. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Hudson, R. F., Lane, H.B. & Pullen, P.C. (2005). Reading Fluency Assessment and Instruction: What, Why, and How? International Reading Association. Retrieved 20 March 2007 from
  • Johns, J.L. (1993). Informal Reading Inventories. DeKalb, IL: Communitech.
  • Pang, E. S, Muaka, A, Bernhardt, E. B. & Kami, M. L. (2003). Teaching Reading. Geneva, Switzerland: International Academy of Education. Retrieved on March 21, 2007 from
  • Schunk, D. H. & Zimmerman, B. J. (1994). Self-Regulation of Learning and Performance: Issues and Educational Applications. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Smith, F. (1994). Understanding Reading: A Psycholinguistic Analysis of Reading and Learning to Read. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Torgesen, J.K., Rashotte, C., Alexander, A., Alexander, J., & McPhee, K. (2003) Progress Towards Understanding the Instructional Conditions Necessary for Remediating Reading Difficulties in Older Children. In B. Foorman (Ed.), Preventing and Remediating Reading Difficulties: Bringing the Science to Scale (pp. 275-298). Baltimore: York Press.
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