Sustained smothering reading

SSR should be used for school-related duties that students see fit

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Truthfully, I can’t remember the last time I read a book during sustained silent reading (SSR) in the entirety of my high school experience. Most kids I know don’t bother with pulling out a book during this 20 minute period either, which is why the reason for having this period of time should be reaffirmed as a time for students to spend as they see necessary, similar to a study hall.

Some teachers like Tim Baumgartner do require their students to have some sort of reading material out, such as a novel, newspaper or magazine because “it builds your vocabulary, and it improves your writing skills.” He specifically mentioned that “it’s not a study hall” or a time to do homework for classes.  

While these classroom requirements sound innocent in theory, here’s where it gets tricky. This constructed time given during the day for reading is meant to stimulate learning, but if the student is not choosing to learn on his or her own, then SSR just another school obligation and not a time to spontaneously gain knowledge and acquire skills.

Students should be spending time reading in order to expand their knowledge and abilities, but it should also be in their own regard. SSR is meant to be recreational reading, but it actually turns personal and leisure reading into a school responsibility and discourages students from doing it independently.

I can’t even count how many times I’ve caught a student blankly staring at a page in a book or simply falling asleep at the sight of some random words he doesn’t particularly care about; it simply isn’t appropriate for every student. There are two extremes: the kid who dreads reading and the kid who could spend hours at a time glued to a book. It’s not fair to put them in the same circumstance.

Besides, according to the Report of the National Reading Panel, there were no significant differences in academic performance between students who participate in a rigid SSR period and those who don’t. And there’s a simple reason why that is: an hour and 20 minutes of SSR a week isn’t enough to make a significant reading growth on a student.

As a busy and involved senior, I can personally attest that I greatly utilize SSR, just not to read. I use it as a time to check any important emails I might be receiving from colleges, to get ahead on homework assignments and to squeeze in some studying before a quiz or test. After all, these school-related responsibilities are just as important to a student’s academic life as reading.

If some students decide to read during SSR, then more power to them. But students should also be encouraged to utilize their time as they see appropriate since they know what works best for them and what will benefit them the most more than anyone else.