Facebook, texting, TV, sport and club activities, jobs, family obligations, schoolwork, and hanging out with friends -- these are the activities that make up a teenager’s world today. Add sleeping time into this mix, and the once popular leisure activity called reading ranks among most teenagers’ lowest priorities. In the high-tech, high-speed 21st century, reading proficiency is an essential tool to compete in today’s global marketplace. Yet numerous study results show a continual decline in students’ reading performance. The 2007 reading study by the National Endowment for the Arts noted that “reading has slipped to a mere eight minutes per day for 18-24-year-olds” (To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence, p. 10). A survey of reading by the National Assessment of Educational Progress conducted between 2005-2007 indicated more students are reading below basic benchmarks, and the number of students performing at or above the proficient level is declining (National Assessment of Educational Progress, 2009). Clearly, reading intervention for students is needed.
Many school districts actively encourage an independent reading program for students such as SSR (silent sustained reading), DEAR (Drop Everything and Read), FVR (Free Voluntary Reading), or others of a similar nature. These programs share common features such as student choice in selection of books, silent reading time without interruption for periods of 10-30 minutes daily or weekly, and free reading not tied to literature not studied as part of a class. Recently, many school districts have reduced time once dedicated to students’ independent reading as part of an ever-increasing trend to focus on preparation for standardized testing. Also, a landmark study in 2000 by the National Reading Panel concluded several quantitative studies failed to show evidence of the benefits of independent reading for students (National Reading Panel, 2000). The Panel’s controversial findings have since been refuted by key board members (Stahl, 2004; Wu & Samuels, 2004) and leading reading researchers (Krashen, 2002; Pilgreen, 2000; Reutzel, et at., 2008) to reflect over forty years’ of reading research which supports independent reading time as an effective method of bolstering students’ reading comprehension, vocabulary, grammar, writing skills, and general knowledge. The controversy between researchers indicates a need for further study about the efficacy of independent reading. Specifically, the literature about traditional SSR seems to indicate a closer examination of these key areas: (a) teacher role in SSR, (b) student engagement in SSR, and (c) current revisions to the traditional independent reading format.
Teacher Role in SSR
Traditionally, the primary role of the teacher during SSR has been to model a positive attitude and interest in reading. As the class engages in SSR, the teacher reads his/her own book to model. New Zealand teachers/researchers Parr and Maguiness...