By Valerie Plowman, Chronicles of a Babywise Mom
I am a huge proponent of reading. One of my main goals as a parent has always been to teach my children to not only be capable of reading, but love reading. I come from a line of readers, and I believe the person who can and does read opens a whole world of possibilities to himself.
When I came across the idea of Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) in The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, I was very excited. It has come to be my number one favorite piece of advice from the book. It is something I do with my children consistently and have seen many great benefits from it.
WHAT IS SSR?
SSR is essentially reading for pleasure each day. When it comes time for SSR, you choose your reading material–whether it be magazines, a book, the newspaper…whatever it is you feel like reading, you read. You read together so that the children can see you modeling reading, but everyone is silent.
WHY DO SSR?
- SSR provides the opportunity to read for a long enough length of time that reading becomes natural. SSR has been shown to improve reading skills.
- SSR gives children the opportunity to read for fun. It shows kids that reading can be for pleasure. There are no quizzes and no tests–no pressure. SSR has been shown to improve attitude toward reading.
HOW DO YOU IMPLEMENT SSR?
Here are some tips on implementing SSR in the home:
- You can do SSR with a non-reader.
- Start with a shorter length of time. 10-15 minutes is a good start. You can then move up from there according to age and ability of child. We do 20-30 minutes a day; however, my seven year old often continues his SSR for another 20-30 minutes.
- Allow the child to choose his/her own reading material. Remind the child to gather enough reading material to fill the time. For a child who cannot read independently, she will likely need several picture books (or whatever she chooses) to get through the 10-15 (or more) minutes.
- Have a variety of reading material available in the home. Research shows that “the more kinds of reading material in a home the higher the child’s reading scores in school” (page 90), so don’t feel like if your child chooses to read the paper it is worthless time spent reading.
- Have SSR at a time of day you can be most consistent with. For my older children (7 and 5), I like to have it after lunch. This is a time of day that is great to relax and take a break.
- You read, also. You will come to love this time as much as your children do!
- No getting up and changing material once SSR has started. Part of your goal is to have sustained focus on reading, and if the child is getting up and down over and over to change books, it will distract from that goal. That is why you remind them to get enough to last through the time. If they misjudge (and they will at first), tell them to look through their books again.
- No talking during SSR.
- No reports after SSR is over. This is just for fun. That doesn’t mean you can’t talk about what you read, just no formal testing.
Like I said, we love our SSR. We have now been doing it for about a year and a half.
I love it for me. I love reading, and this is a chance for me to get some uninterrupted reading time each day–something that can be very hard to come by as a mom!
I love it for my children. I see that they love it–they never grumble or complain when it is SSR time. It also gives them a physical break in the middle of the day and allows them to just relax and escape into the world of whatever they are reading.
I have also seen reading skills improve greatly, especially in my full-on reader. My recently-turned-seven year old has gotten faster and faster at reading during the last two months. He has gone from finishing a chapter book in a day or two to finishing it in just over an hour (we have added some more difficult books for him because of his speed). When SSR is over, he always wants to read longer.
I see the efforts of SSR paying off in our home. Give it a try! You will see great benefits, also.
Valerie is a mother to four, including a newborn, and blogs at www.babywisemom.com.