Starting on the first day of first grade, students in my elementary school were required to bring specific school supplies to class. I remember packing my bright red backpack each night with a black and white marble composition book, crayons, pencils and glue sticks. In addition to these common school supplies, students were also required to bring a book to read in class each day. As the years went by, the school supply lists changed from crayons to binders and from glue sticks to calculators. However, the need to bring a separate book from home every day did not change. In fact, I was still required to bring a book to class my senior year of high school.
The need for these books demonstrated the concept of silent reading. Silent reading, also known as Drop Everything and Read (DEAR), Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) or Million Minutes, is a program instilled in a vast majority of schools across the United States. The premise behind these programs is that students are required to read silently to themselves for a specified time every day at school. Often students are allowed to select the book they read to allow them to enjoy the time more. In elementary school, we had designated times every day in class to read while in high school we were told to read whenever there was a lull in the schedule or we finished an assignment early. The objective of this silent reading time is to develop fluent readers, improve literacy and increase a desire to read books among students.
Although silent reading has a set strategy and an ideal objective, many do not believe that this practice benefits students. According to the 2000 National Reading Panel (NRP) analysis of silent reading programs, researchers concluded that silent reading did not improve reading skills. Many people believe that because this program was not supported by the findings of the National Reading Panel, the practice does not work.
I disagree with those people. In my experience, silent reading was a beneficial part of my schooling. Since coming to college, I have realized that I am not consistent when it comes to reading for pleasure. I often read in bursts. For a while I will get really into reading or a series and then I will go for a period of time without even glancing at a book to read in my free time. Although I have random bursts for reading now, growing up I did not. I always wanted to read something. Every night before I went to sleep, I would read a few chapters of a book until I could not keep my eyes open anymore. I truly believe that having time set aside during the school day encouraged this additional reading. I would begin reading the book during the designated time in class, and then I would become so engrossed in the story that I would continue reading when I came home. The silent reading periods in my elementary, middle and even parts of high school, helped me continue to grow as a reader.
Although there has not been sufficient evidence found to support the idea of silent reading, the National Reading Panel report did not dismiss the idea. Instead, the report mentioned that the specific studies used to evaluate silent reading may have been why the results were not supported. Further analysis would need to be done to fully understand the benefits of the programs. I believe that this practice of silent reading should continue in schools because it can develop a desire for students to read on their own that they might not be able to develop without it.