published in Texas Adult and Family Literacy Quarterly, February 2008
“Okay, you may stop reading when you get to a good place,” I say softly as I try to reach my own good place to stop. At the end of a half hour of silent reading in my multi-level ESL class, I see some students making notes, some writing in their reading logs, and many still reading, trying to reach a good place to stop.
When I first introduced sustained silent reading (SSR) to my class last spring, I expected resistance, but I met none. There was an initial period of apprehension, but that was quickly replaced with a mounting level of confidence as students discovered that they could read and understand much more than they expected they would.
Then I attended the 2005 TESOL convention in San Antonio, where I was inspired by a session on using SSR with beginning-level adults (see Banke & Kurzet, 2005), but it took me a year and a half to work out how to implement SSR in my classroom and to have the courage to put it in motion. From the presenters’ information and other reading I’d done, I knew that the key to a successful SSR program is accessibility to appropriate text. I would need books in a wide range of reading levels on a variety of topics. I took advantage of the leveled readers available from my department, to which I added some young adult books for more advanced students. My biggest obstacle then was to figure out how to organize and present the program to my students.
How It Works
My SSR library of 65 books is housed in a plastic file box with six envelope-style manila folders—one for each of six levels of readers. I also have a binder with reading logs that students keep as a record of the books they have read. If they finish a book during reading time, they quietly get their log from the notebook, record their observations about the book, choose their next book, and continue reading.
Nobody talks during the reading half-hour. If students have questions, they write them down to ask later. I discourage the use of dictionaries, but I don’t make an issue of it. The most important thing is for students to be comfortable with their reading, and for some that means translating every word. For others it means taking copious notes. I have observed both of these crutches fall into disuse—or at least into diminished use—as students gain experience and confidence.
Krashen, S. (2004). The case for narrow reading. Language Magazine 3(5):17-19. Retrieved October 6, 2007 from http://sdkrashen.com/articles/narrow/index.html