CorePlanner Blog


Sustained Silent Reading: Why It Matters and Tips to Make It Fun

Are you caught in the in-between of structured, research-based methodology and pure, focused practice? Sometimes I feel I don’t have the time to continually implement strategies AND give kids the chance to practice and explore on their own. I imagine you feel the same way.

Today I want to encourage prioritizing focused, independent reading practice. To cover all of the bases, I’ll include research as to why that time is so important.

Last week I mentioned that a change implicit in the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, is that every teacher is a reading teacher. This is good news.

Research has shown strong correlates between reading ability and job success. A study by the National Endowment for the Arts states that the percent of proficient readers earning greater than $850/week is more than double the percentage of basic readers in that income bracket (58% vs. 23%). Correlative data* has shown time and again the relationship between the amount of time spent reading and one’s reading ability. The gains in reading ability for lower level readers who commit to time spent reading independently were even greater than those made by their peers who read proficiently.

The question for which there isn’t a consensus is: how do we get students to read independently? Tactics abound; assess them, incentivize reading, require it… you know the drill.

Now that I’ve provided the research, let’s talk about the practice. This year my students will spend 30 minutes per day practicing sustained, silent reading.

Here are a few tips that I’ve collected which seem to work for making this time sacred:

* Put it on the agenda

- Don’t ever compromise on this time. Build it into your daily classroom routine so that students know to be prepared for it (books in hand!) and can look forward to it.

*Give it a cool name

-Is it called SSR? Independent reading? Book club? Read-a-thon? Read your heart out? Reading rocks? Pick something they’ll like.

* Make the space cozy

-Environmental cues are so important. Change the lighting, the way students can sit (maybe they can put their feet up? Sit on the floor?), or add some music. This should be a time students get to drift off into the world of their books. Help them by making it a relaxing time.


*Provide books on their level

-Independent reading books should be accessible. They should be age-appropriate and at an appropriate reading level. This will require that you have a large variety of books available for kids.

* Talk about it

-Find time in the weekly schedule to discuss or showcase the books. This could mean that a few students get to share what their books are about each week. It could mean that students design book posters promoting a book they’ve loved. Maybe you ask students to rank the books when they finish them (ex: 3.5/5 stars).

*Model it

-Be the model of frequent, enthusiastic reading. Read when they read (yes, for the whole SSR time). And share about your own book. What exciting turn of events just happened? Which character is annoying you? Which part was dull? Be authentic and model how adult readers really read. If you couldn’t finish a book because it was a bore, say so and find another one. Then, give your students the same freedom.


* Scaffold how you stretch them

-There are 2 types of books I always reach for, mysteries and social sciences books. Students will have their own preferences. They might always grab graphic novels or cheesy romances. Let them. Inspire the habit of reading independently before you stretch them to try a new genre. Then, be sure you follow suit.

Any other tips you can share ?

-¬‐ Annie Krut, M.Ed.

Annie is on a mission to teach kids the skills they need to be happy. She’s using neuroscience, the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards. Get the curriculum at and join the conversation on Twitter: @eighthugs

*The NEA study linked above speaks to this correlation but other data sources abound. Type “correlation between time spent reading and reading ability” into Google and read your heart out.