Benefits of Sustained Silent Reading

Benefits of Sustained Silent Reading
books for education

When was the last time you read silently for enjoyment?

Whether your child has a love of reading or not, there are many benefits of sustained silent reading including developing a love for books and an increased ability to maintain silent reading for the length of time needed for end-of-year testing. Plus, reading takes the reader on adventures and increases knowledge. It’s never too late for someone to become a reader.

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In my experience, reluctant readers spend more time practicing test-taking skills but not enough time practicing sustained reading for the length of the end-of-year tests. They lose stamina part way through the test and things go downhill from there. Our culture is quick and on the go and when a reading passage is more than a page long, students groan. If it’s several pages long, they tune out after the first one or just skip to the questions and then spend time hunting for answers in a passage they never read, missing the nuances of the test and the complexities of comprehension. 

Does this sound like a child you know? Whether it is called DEAR (Drop Everything and Read), SSR (Sustained Silent Reading), Quiet Time, or DIRT (Daily Independent Reading Time), most school children have experienced some form of sustained silent reading but not all of it is successful.  Here are four tips for increasing the enjoyment of sustained silent reading. 

Sustained Silent Reading Tips

Reader-chosen material –  Give children regular access to a well-stocked home library, public library, school library, ebooks library, book store, or used book store. Encourage them to ask a friend or librarian for suggestions for new books or similar books to those they have enjoyed in the past. It is ok for them to occasionally choose material that is below their grade level or reread familiar books as it will increase their enjoyment and confidence in sustained silent reading.

Accountability – This means not fake reading, not sleeping, not picking up the same book day after day, and never making progress. It could be having a reading chart where the student logs the books and pages they read. It could be having a family reading night, make it a priority, not an afterthought. It could be occasionally read for a purpose (learning about an Olympic athlete who’s competing tomorrow night).

Interaction – Engage with the children and their books. Occasionally have them read aloud to someone or partner read (take turns reading paragraphs or pages). Another idea is to have book talks at the breakfast table about current or favorite books. 

Achievement – Celebrate completed books in big or small ways. This should not be a bribery to complete minutes or books, but a way to record achievements. Make a note on the reading log of how many books were completed or add a link to a paper chain for each hour read, etc. To add a critical thinking component, consider having the child find or draw something small to symbolize the book and add it to a big clear glass jar. For an online idea, record the books in GoodReads, a book-tracking app.

In my classroom, I would have students gather a few books, find quiet spots, and read until the timer went off. We made a regular habit of this and gradually increased the time. Sometimes we would make a marathon of it and students were delighted in their success. I used the time to model reading or to conference with students about their books. Having a few books next to them eliminated the excuse to get up and find a new book. Even preschoolers can sit and read for a bit with a basket of books on a blanket.

Practical application of sustained silent reading at home

Schedule regular sustained silent reading times for your home this month. When a book is complete, the reader finds or draws something small to symbolize the book and puts it in the big clear glass jar. At the next family meal, the reader tells the family of the book they completed and how the item symbolizes the book. Other family members ask questions or chime in about similar books. This hits up all the tips above for choosing material, accountability, interaction, and achievement.

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It’s never too late for someone to become a reader – child or adult. Making sustained silent reading a regular practice in your home will increase your enjoyment of books and take you on adventures, young or old. “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” Richard Steele

Table Talk

When was the last time you read for enjoyment? Where is your favorite spot to read?

More Resources

Creating a successful sustained silent reading for middle and high schoolers

Improving reading achievement

Questions to ask your children as they read

I’m a huge fan of reading aloud in addition to sustained silent reading. Check out these blog posts.

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