The Case for SSR: Why My Students Read Choice Books Daily

Why do I begin every class period with ten minutes of SSR (silent sustained reading)? Here’s my top five reasons:

5. Soothing Start

Let’s face it, being in school can make for a really hectic day. Students are required to physically and mentally jump from class to class for hours while being asked to remember and apply information and complete work promptly. English class is absolutely no exception to this; we have a lot to cover: reading, writing, grammar, speaking, listening, critical thinking… the list could really go on! Starting class with SSR helps us squeeze in a little bit of reading while also slowing everyone down in their busy day.

During SSR, students can sit anywhere they choose, so long as they are reading. My comfy seating is often used during this time, but some students like to sit on the floor or just move by a friend. By the time my timer goes off, indicating the end of SSR, there is a relaxing atmosphere in the room. It’s easy to transition into our lesson after that calming ten minutes.

4. Quick Connections

A few times a week during SSR, I like to walk around the room with a clipboard and write down the titles of the books each student is reading. I ask what page they are on, what’s happening in the book, and if they are enjoying their book. As a teacher, the opportunity to connect with every student within the first ten minutes of class is invaluable. I also love to stay updated on what students are reading so I can recommend books to other students.

3. Modeling

Any of my students will tell you, I’m wild about reading. I don’t need too much arm twisting to sit down and read at any point during the day, so I ADORE that I can read with my students during SSR. It is important that students see adults modeling healthy learning habits. When I sit down and read my book in front of everyone, I get to be that positive model. It’s a lot easier to convince students to read when they see I enjoy it myself.

2. Community Building

English class is a wonderful place to start building communities around literacy.  We talk about books frequently in my classroom and students know I take these conversations seriously. I like to ask students if they would recommend the book they are reading to anyone else or just if

anyone is in a really good spot on their book. When I get a new book for my library, I like to “introduce” the book to the class and ask if anyone has read a book by the writer in the past. Getting students talking about books is one way to sustain a culture of literacy because students participate meaningfully in these conversations.

I have also had some success in tracking reading as a class and setting reading goals. My eighth graders this year were especially prolific in their reading; they read 120 books as a group by the end of trimester one!

1. Student Choice

Throughout the school day, there may not be a multitude of opportunities for students to choose what they study. Integrating plenty of student choice is a difficult task, but letting students choose their own SSR books is one way I can do this every single day.

I was fortunate to attend the NCTE conference last year in St. Louis. It was an incredible three days of English teacher paradise and I came back to Iowa with resources, ideas, and inspiration galore; however, the greatest take away by far, was the repeated case for teachers to let students choose books and give them time to read at school. Taking this teaching advise has been the most game-changing decision I have made in my classroom and has brought a lasting sense of community to my class. It all reminds me that sharing in the joy of reading is the privilege and purpose of my work!


Want to read more about the importance of teen reading? Check out my post about promoting reading at school.

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