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Date Author Title
2011-08-01 Steve Gardiner Three Books About Sustained Silent Reading

Sustained silent reading has been a valuable teaching tool for many years. Teachers who use it see the many benefits daily in their classes. Teachers who don't use it criticize the lack of empirical research to support it, echoing the finding of the National Reading Panel.

The research has been there all along and a new book by Stephen Krashen does a fine job of collecting much of it in one location. Free Voluntary Reading (Libraries Unlimited, 2011) is a collection of eight articles Krashen published in professional journals. The articles explain the power of reading, student choice in reading materials, myths about SSR, rewards for reading, and an explanation of his Acquisition Hypothesis. The data in these chapters is convincing evidence of what SSR can do in the classroom. He also adds an interesting discussion of a new and related thought, free voluntary surfing, which explains the benefits students gain from choosing their own reading sources on the internet.


For those interested in more information about SSR, two other books can provide assistance. The SSR Handbook: How to Organize and Manage a Sustained Silent Reading Program by Janice L. Pilgreen (Boynton-Cook Publishers, 2000) takes a look at much of the research about SSR and outlines the steps necessary to design and run a successful SSR program. She creates a list of “Eight Factors for SSR Success” that would help anyone interested in trying SSR in the classroom.


Because SSR has been a significant part of my high school English classrooms for over 30 years, I decided to share my experiences of daily reading with students in a book called Building Student Literacy Through Sustained Silent Reading (ASCD, 2005). While the above two books cover the research side of SSR, this book is a practitioner's look at how SSR works in the day-to-day world of a school. It gives tips on how to help students find the books that will move them, how to introduce the program to a class, how to grade an SSR program, and how to make sure the program is a success.


Sustained silent reading can be one of the most successful ways to promote vocabulary, spelling, grammar, sentence fluency, and most important, reading enjoyment for students. It is inexpensive, easy to start, and easy to maintain. Students quickly become attached to the silent reading time. They enjoy the control of choosing their own books and appreciate the quiet time to read and relax. These three books can help you bring a successful SSR program to your classroom.

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