Setting the "opportunity to read" standard: resuscitating the SSR program in an urban high school: one urban high school made significant efforts to provide students with the opportunity to read

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Author: Douglas Fisher
Date: Oct. 2004
From: Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy(Vol. 48, Issue 2)
Publisher: International Literacy Association
Document Type: Article
Length: 5,992 words

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Schools across the United States have redoubled their efforts to improve student achievement and meet the goals established by the No Child Left Behind Act, namely the provision that students and schools make adequate yearly progress. At the secondary school level, teachers and administrators have focused on ensuring that students can read and that they understand what they read. Unfortunately, less attention has been focused on providing students time to read and ensuring that they do read. Given the increased pressure for student performance, teachers and administrators question the use of every instructional minute and wonder if providing students with time to read is a wise investment. The purpose of this article is to examine the journey an urban high school took as the teachers and administrators struggled with the question of time--specifically time devoted to free voluntary reading. Starting with a single comment made by a student, which led to committee work and significant policy changes, the chronology of resuscitating free voluntary reading is explored.

The beginnings of change--A student comment

Sometimes a student asks a question or makes a comment that triggers significant policy change. This is one such case. Miana (all student names are pseudonyms) stopped her English teacher from the previous year in the hall one afternoon. She had recently had her schedule changed and was in a different fourth-period class. This meant that her 20-minute Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) period was also with a different teacher. She told her English teacher that her new fourth-period teacher started class instead of letting them read. She continued, "My mom doesn't let me just read at home. I can do my math homework or write my essays, but she yells at me if I'm just reading. She wants me to watch my brothers and sisters or clean the house. The only time that I ever got to read was during 4-R [the SSR period]. Now that's taken away from me." Miana made several important observations that day. For one, she noticed that not all teachers were implementing SSR. She also noted the importance of reading time--time that is especially valuable for students in urban schools who may not have a place or the resources to read texts of their choice outside of school. Little did she know that her strategic comment would trigger a renewed focus on SSR and generate discussion schoolwide.

Support for independent reading time

Free Voluntary Reading, Sustained Silent Reading (SSR), Drop Everything And Read (DEAR), and Independent Reading have been recommended as ways to engage students in reading on their own (e.g., Jensen & Jensen, 2002; Wiesendanger & Birlem, 1984; Worthy, Turner, & Moorman, 1998). While there are distinctions among each of these methods, all of them involve students selecting texts and reading during school. Researchers and teachers have argued that scheduling specific time for students to read can increase reading skills and have a positive impact on students' attitudes toward reading (Akmal, 2002; Dwyer & Reed, 1989). Perhaps the staunchest supporter of independent...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A123852103