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I’ve noticed here that when children read, it’s2013-05-09 11.08.52 very much like mimicry. They can repeat back a text that they have heard. Maybe they can answer simple comprehension questions with guidance. However, they do not read for fun or draw any comprehension from a text they have not been guided on. At least not in years 1-3. The interesting thing, is that when you ask the children if they like reading they emphatically say yes. They love books, they love to get their hands on books. But they have not been taught how to read for pleasure. They have not been taught the strategies to get the most out of their reading.

“Read to self” teaches children to be independent readers. It gives them structure, tools and skills. It is great for the teacher as well, because not all teachers are comfortable with 1-1 work or small group work. The structure of the Daily 5 gives those teachers a very clear framework to go on.

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Children get book bags for the first time. They already contain “good-fit books”

That being said, we had to modify some aspects of “read to self” for use in the Malaysian classroom. Our classrooms are shared, and do not have classroom libraries or materials to use. So, we discussed and decided that read to self could be conducted in the classroom if children used their “book bags” to get books from the library or SAL room first. This is dependent on children being able to choose “good fit books” and libraries and SAL rooms being organized. Otherwise, read to self takes place in the  SAL room or Library and children choose books first and then begin read to self.

  2013-05-09 08.46.20 The website “The Daily Cafe” explains how to teach “read to self” for the first time. We had to modify this because our students are all ELL (English Language Learners). Therefore, at first, we explain the procedure in English and the MT (mother tongue).

How much MT is needed depends on the ability on the class. We want them to have ownership of the process so when we brainstorm we may ask them questions in MT, and then ask for answers in English. For example, “Why do we read? How does reading help us?” Kids can usually say things like, “smart,” or, “fun.” Then we write that down on our anchor chart.

We get a lot of vocab out of these lessons that they will use continuously. I’ll attach a list at the end of this post.

Another thing we have to modify is the timing. In other countries, Literacy blocks last several hours. We have 1-1.5 hours for a lesson. For this reason, we expedite the introduction and get right to practicing. It takes an entire lesson to teach the concept and start practicing. After that, I recommend the teachers decide how to structure independent reading time. Perhaps once a week, once every 2 weeks. Since there is just 1-1.5 hours per lesson instead of following the format that the sisters (authors of “The Daily 5”) recommend, they might do a whole group lesson, then practice “read to self” for 10-15 minutes.

Strategy and Assessment

Since practicing “read to self,” we have started delving into conferencing and “CAFE” strategies. This is more complicated, especially for teachers who have never been exposed to literacy strategies before. I’ll update on this later on.

One last thing about organization

Children in Malaysia need to be taught responsibility.  I’ve talked about this with many admin and teachers. You can see the affect on the country- reckless drivers, litter bugs, smoking around little children. In the schools it is evidenced by the lack of respect towards resources- literally destroying books, materials, spaces, etc. It’s not their fault, no one has taught them what to do. No one has modeled it for them first. One simple change 2013-07-03 14.12.21we have implemented at one of the schools is the book mark system. When a student takes a book off the shelf, they must take two book marks with matching pictures. They put on on the shelf where they found the book, and the other in the book. When it’s time to return the book, they find the matching book mark and put it back where it belongs. Simple, but effective.


  • read
  • self
  • place/spot
  • words
  • pictures
  • retell
  • stamina (that’s a big one!)
  • smart
  • brain
  • fun
  • whole time (as in read the WHOLE TIME)
  • practice