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The efficacy of sustained silent reading in an elementary reading program

1 June 1997


Reading is a foundational personal skill vital to the success and happiness of every educated individual. The success or failure of reading instruction, therefore, is pivotal in the elementary educational process. The gravity of these statements led me to examine the core elements in a comprehensive elementary reading program. In doing so I discovered that Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) was being used by a great majority of elementary classrooms as a key component of their reading program. Does SSR effectively improve skill in word recognition and reading comprehension? Does it have a positive effect on students' attitude towards reading? If so, how could I maximize its effectiveness in my own classroom? These are the questions I addressed in this research project. In examining the genera1literature on this topic, I found the experts to be in disagreement as to the efficacy of SSR in an elementary reading program. In general, they all felt that the need for additional research was paramount especially in light of the widespread use ofSSR in schools today. • For my own research, I focused my data gathering process on the logistics of SSR implementation and their impact on the effectiveness of the program. More specifically, I looked at what books students should read, how structured should SSR time be, what time of day and how long should SSR time be, where should students sit during SSR time, and should SSR be supplemented with other reading proficiency activities or assessments. Through the observation and survey of 242 students in eleven classrooms, as well as the survey and interview of the eleven classroom teachers, I gained important insight into the efficacy of SSR. I found that SSR provided quality in-school time for students to practice the skill of reading, as well as discover the joy of reading. My research also revealed that classroom structure and discipline had a significant impact on SSR effectiveness. Student self-selection of books with some teacher input created greatest student interest in reading material. Time of day and seating arrangement effectiveness varied from class to class, and grade level to grade level. Supplementing SSR with peer interaction, student/teacher interactive reading, and/or reading logs was helpful to assess student skill level and encourage student accountability. In general I found that SSR did produce students that read at a higher level but, more importantly, instilled in them a love of books and a joy of reading.


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