Reading creates community

Sorry for the delayed posting; last week was Book Fair week!

“She’s quiet, shy, and always has her nose in a book.”

“She needs to connect with those around her.”

“She isn’t learning how to navigate the real world.”

“She reads so quickly; I don’t think she understands what she is reading.”

These are often comments I hear from concerned parents about their child reader. I want to rephrase these statements.

Books allow us to travel the world, meet amazing people, and try experiences we never thought were possible. I believe that reading is the foundation of lifelong learning. Every subject requires reading and understanding, by creating a passion for reading we create better scholars, engineers, scientists, and artists. This is the goal of silent sustained reading times. Yet, we are seeing that sitting and silently reading for 50 minutes is difficult, and students are not benefiting from the designated reading time, even when the time is dedicated to books that students choose for themselves.

Recently, I proposed to reframe our 5th/6th grade SSR: Silent Sustained Reading class. Moving from a SILENT sustained reading model to a STRUCTURED sustained reading model. My goal for this change would be to provide the opportunity to create discussion and evaluation around books for students in a relaxed format. While pleasure reading can be an individual activity, structured sustained reading creates the expectation of community. “Research has shown that reading ability is positively correlated with the extent to which students [independently] read recreationally,” according to the “Reading and Writing Habits of Students” section of The Condition of Education 1997, published by the National Center for Education Statistics (Hopkins). However, 20 years later, we know that silent independent reading is not enough. “Reading comprehension is not a single ability,” as the title of Hugh W. Catts and Alan G. Kamhi 2017 article states. Catts and Kamhi conclude that “the multidimensionality of reading comprehension means that instruction will be more effective when tailored to student performance with specific texts and tasks.” Our students need to be mentored through the pleasure reading process and when we provide the opportunity to discuss their personal reading, reading comprehension will grow.

Every student needs time to read for self-improvement. Structured sustained reading is a time to create positive relationships with mentoring teachers over personal reading. Such a model, as described by Michelle Gabriel, ED. M. in her 2017 presentation “Structured Independent Reading”, would include:

  • conferencing with students during reading time
  • discussing book choices for independent reading that will yield more successful reading experiences.
  • informally checking for understanding as students read
  • group discussions to make connections to what students have learned to capitalize on the teachable moment.
  • set expectations for students’ reading behaviors and habits
  • exploring a variety of genres.

The goal of the course is to create lifelong readers that set goals, discuss their reading, and build reading comprehension skills. Creating motivated readers increases facetime with texts and develops key reading comprehension skills.

“She reads so quickly; she understands what she is reading.

She is learning how to navigate the real world

and connect with those around her

because she’s quiet, shy, and always has her nose in a book”

Mentoring teachers and I will be prepping with Teacher Resources:

  • No More Independent Reading Without Support (Not This But That) by Debbie Miller and Barbara Moss
  • Creating Lifelong Readers Through Independent Reading by Barbara Moss

I’m interested to share experiences with other middle school librarians who have implemented similar changes to their reading programs.

Work Cited
Catts, Hugh W. and Alan G. Kamhi. “Reading Comprehension Is Not a Single Ability.” Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, April 2017, Vol. 48, 73-76. doi:10.1044/2017_LSHSS-16-0033.
Gabriel, Michelle and Maria Acero-Castillo. “Structured Independent Reading.” 2017, Microsoft Powerpoint online file.
Hopkins, Gary. “Sustained Silent Reading” Helps Develop Independent Readers (and Writers).” Education World, 19 November 1997,

One thought on “Reading creates community

  1. I look forward to reading more about structured sustained reading. Replacing silent sustained reading has been what I have been wondering about recently. Thanks for the intro to the topic and the resources you mention in the blog and work cited list.

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