Students between the ages of 11 and 18 are reading less frequently. This is creating gaps in learning, and limiting the availability and use of vocabulary in everyday conversations. Research indicates that readers only become better readers when they practice reading. In response to this research, many administrators around the country have chosen to implement a Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) program. Their hope is that by changing the curriculum and setting up a specific time for reading test scores will increase. SSR is a program that sets aside 15 to 30 minutes of every school day for students to read whatever they choose, with no written assignments or activities to accompany the reading. The goal is to increase comprehension, fluency and vocabulary, rather than worrying about whether students finish reading the material. Although there is limited scientific research to prove that this program works, many schools have implemented it anyway. Although some schools have experienced success, implementation of this program has raised some concerns with teachers.
Their main concern about the implementation of SSR is that it takes precious minutes away from preparing students for high stakes testing in the core class subject areas. This places extreme pressure on teachers when they are trying to get through everything in the curriculum. Educators also worry about students who may squander their time by just pretending to read.. Being an educator myself I believe these to be valid concerns because students do tend to take advantage in any given situation if they can get away with it . A very real expectation is that educators must encourage students to become lifelong readers, but time is valuable and every year teachers are asked to do more with less time.
In many English classes around the world students are being taught in similar fashions. The are all asked to read the same material, after which they are asked to complete an essay or another activity. The question is whether students are actually gaining something from these activities with regard to comprehension, vocabulary, and fluency. Studies have been conducted that show students are not actually reading the material in its entirety. They usually read just enough to answer questions or to write an essay. This is neither meaningful for students nor for the teachers trying to find ways to help them become lifelong learners and strong readers.
According to a study published in The Clearing House in 2010, a survey was given to students to determine their attitudes toward reading, and to see how involved their parents were in the reading process. The survey ascertained that students who experienced parental involvement starting at a young age were more active readers. Those who had not experienced parental involvement were behind. The school used in the study asked parents to set aside a time at home for their student to read and to also participate in literacy activities. SSR was implemented and used in the school for six months, and then the survey was given again. This time the survey indicated that forty percent of the students had changed their attitudes towards reading and that their interest in reading had increased. This study shows that with parental support, changing a student’s attitude toward literacy doesn’t always have to be complicated. I I I realize that many high school students are so involved that setting aside time to read may prove to be challenging. I know that most attempts to change attitudes towards reading have been done at the elementary level because of this constraint. I believe a study is a great way to demonstrate that SSR can be effective, but I think more details of the parental support aspect need to be clarified.
Noble High School, was another high school that was successful in implementing SSR. This high school increased state test scores by fifty percent, in addition to an increase in the number of books checked out at the library. Noble High School used a seven component guide to make their SSR program successful. These components include; Access, Appeal, Environment, Encouragement, Non-Accountability, Disturbance of Time to Read, Follow up Activities, and Staff Training. Most of the above components are easy to understand, however, follow up activities and staff training are needed to provide a piece of accountability. One of the follow-up activities used by this school includes having students share what they read at least once a week. This means that students have to read at least once during the week, which may be the most reading they have done on a sustained level in many years. Educators are asked by administrators to share new ideas and provide SSR training to others. It has to explain how the program is supposed to look, what expectations are possible, and how it should be followed to produce the best results. Together, this should limit discrepancies in implementation and provide more consistency within the school building.
I believe that SSR could be an effective way to help students increase vocabulary, fluency and to become lifelong readers. However, at the high school level this process could prove especially challenging for departments whose students have lower reading levels to start with. This is made more difficult when students are uncomfortable in the classroom. Personally, I instituted a silent reading time in my classroom. At the start of the semester, our Read 180 classes found it was difficult for students to read for any length of time. As the semester progressed however, students got more into their books and are now reading for longer periods of time. Students have also increased their comprehension level by at least 5 points, and this degree of progress is especially encouraging. This is exceptionally notable in students who have a specific learning disability in reading, or for those who have mental disabilities.
Perks, K. (2006). Fun, Easy, and Effective: Sustained Silent Reading as a High School Practice. Coalition of Essential Schhol , 1-4.
Siah, P.-C., & Kwok, W.-l. (2010). The Value of Reading and the Effectiveness of Sustained Silent Reading. The Clearing House , 168-174.
Strauses, V. (2014). Why Kids Should Choose Their Own Books to Read in School. Washington Post, 1-4.