The benefits of sustained silent reading: scientific research and common sense converge: once teachers unravel the facts from the misinterpretations and opinions, they will find that Sustained Silent Reading is not only intuitively appealing but also is supported by research

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Date: Dec. 2008
From: The Reading Teacher(Vol. 62, Issue 4)
Publisher: International Literacy Association
Document Type: Article
Length: 5,798 words
Lexile Measure: 1340L

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As reading teachers, we recognize the joy that comes from getting lost in the pages of a good book. We fondly recall the books that inspired and changed us as children and that still influence us as adults. As teachers, we want to awaken that love of literacy in our students and invite them to experience that magic in our classrooms. We want them to grow into "skilled, passionate, habitual, and critical readers" (Atwell, 2007). However, confusion over and misinterpretation of federal research on independent reading in the United States have caused some to question this vision of literacy. Teachers and administrators are now wondering if reading books in school helps students increase their reading skills, much less appreciate the value of reading.

There are many misconceptions about the role Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) should play in reading instruction. Much of the confusion stems from the research on SSR in the Report of the National Reading Panel (NRP; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development [NICHD], 2000). Although it was published in 2000, the report still has clout. In fact, Guidance for the Reading First Program requires five "Effective Components of Reading Instruction" based on the NRP's findings (U.S. Department of Education Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, 2002, p. 3). The document also cites the NRP's research methodology as the gold standard for scientifically based reading research (SBRR). Clearly, it is SBRR that both defines and confines the curricula in Reading First schools. Touted as the definitive research on reading instruction, the NRP report still influences education policy in the United States and the materials and methods schools adopt.

It is not surprising that the NRP report has generated spirited and even angry debate among educators and researchers, ranging from criticism of its methodology to contradictions in the panel's summary of its findings to charges of conflicts of interest among NRP and Reading First panel members (Coles, 2003; Cunningham, 2001; Garan, 2001; Krashen, 2005; U.S. Department of Education Office of the Inspector General, 2006). In the midst of a storm of controversy, one of the most divisive criticisms of the NRP is the claim that its findings do not support SSR in schools (Stahl, 2004). In this article, we will clarify the panel's research with the words of the NRP report and those of its panel members and contributors. We will then offer suggestions on variations of pure SSR and how teachers can use them in their classrooms.

On Defining SSR or Any Instructional Method

It's tempting to accept research at face value, especially if it's labeled as scientific and involves quantitative methods. However, as consumers of research, teachers must approach all studies with careful scrutiny rather than unquestioning acceptance. This is true even with--or, some might suggest, particularly with--research based on a scientific, medical model that strives to establish firm causal relationships between teaching methods and results. There are just too many confounding factors that can and do contaminate the research process and make it nearly impossible...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A191349597