[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
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).