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[Susan notes: It seems shocking that the president of IRA wouldn't support SSR. Krashen offers an excellent rebuttal. Although it's "only anecdotal". . .when I taught third grade, sustained silent reading transformed my students' lives--and they scored well on the standardized test at the end of the year. And it happened because I knew how to get kids to read more. The solution isn't in a script.


Submitted to Reading Today but not published

To the editor

Tim Shanahan (“Does he really think kids shouldn’t

read?” Reading Today, July 2006) still thinks that

“sustained silent reading (SSR) is probably not a good

idea.” There is, however, strong support in the

research for SSR. In my review, I found that SSR was

as effective or more effective than comparison groups

in 50 out of 53 published comparisons, and in

long-term studies, SSR was a consistent winner (Phi

Delta Kappan, 2001). These results have been shown to

hold for first and second/foreign language

development, and results continue to appear supporting

the value of SSR.

Shanahan makes a number of incorrect statements in his

article. He dismisses the value of studies showing no

difference between SSR and comparisons, claiming that

comparison groups were “often” classes filled with

“random worksheets.” Shanahan fails to support this

claim with citations.

He claims that “Only one study … even bothered to find

out how much the kids were reading – and it found that

SSR led to less reading.” The study he cites, Summers

and McClelland, in the Alberta Journal of Education,

1982, found nothing of the sort. One of the measures

used contained a question in which children were asked

to indicate how much they read. There was no

difference between the SSR and non-SSR groups on this

measure, and no separate analysis of this one question

was done. Summers and McClelland reported that “almost

all” of the teachers, librarians and principals of the

SSR school reported “some increase in the range of

topics read as a result of SSR in their classrooms,

and “the respondents, almost without exception,

subjectively rated SSR as influencing development of a

positive attitude toward reading….” (p. 109).

Contrary to Shanahan’s statement, several SSR studies

have “bothered to find out how much the kids were

reading,” and they have reported that children are

more involved in free voluntary reading after the

program ends that those in traditional programs (D.

Pfau, Reading Teacher, 1967; J. Pilgreen and S.

Krashen, School Library Media Quarterly, 1993). V.

Greaney and M. Clarke (in D. Moyle, ed., Reading: What

of the Future?” UK Reading Association, 1973) present

a spectacular example: Sixth-grade boys who

participated in an in-school free reading program for

eight and a half months not only did more leisure

reading while they were in the program but also were

still reading more than comparison students six years


Shanahan also claims that “we don’t know how to get

kids to read more.” We certainly do. The published

research contains strong evidence that, among other

things, increasing access helps (e.g J. Kim, 2004, in

JESPAR), seeing other people read helps (e.g. K.

Wheldall and J. Entwhistle, 1988, in Educational

Psychology), reading aloud to children helps (e.g. S.

Neuman in the Elementary School Journal, 1986; L.

Morrow and C. Weinstein in the Elementary School

Journal, 1982) and, of course, providing time for

reading, as in SSR, helps. I have reviewed this

research in chapter 2 of The Power of Reading

(Heinemann/Libraries Unlimited, 2004, second edition).

Stephen Krashen

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