how to make silent reading more meaningful

make silent reading more meaninfulSilent reading can–and should–be a meaningful, rich, awesome experience for kids.

And parents can–and should–be able to support their young readers at home, just by keeping a few important things in mind.

Research shows that the more kids read, the better readers they become. It makes sense.  So let’s give kids time.  And let’s support them while they’re there.

Let’s give them time to practice the skills they’re learning in the classroom.

Let’s give them time to really dive into texts, walk beside the characters, really get to know an author’s style, or follow a series from start to finish.

Let’s give them time to try out different genres, subjects, and authors.  Let’s provide our kids with time to relax, enjoy some ‘me-time’ and cozy up with a book.

Silent reading may have once been thrown to the wayside by the National Reading Panel (NRP, 2000), but, with a little guidance, teachers and parents can make silent–or independent–reading an integral part of the reading experience.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • How to Make Silent Reading More Meaningful: I recall vividly, a day about six years ago, while doing some consulting work for a local charter school in our area, sharing the latest research on silent reading: there was no conclusive data proving the value of silent reading in the classroom (NRP, 2000).

silent reading meaningful

We can–and will–make silent reading totally rock the house.

And the teachers to whom I was speaking were in disbelief.  Really? No SSR? You mean that giving kids quiet time to read in the classroom doesn’t help kids become better readers?

There is no current research to prove that, I said.  Though we all know that people learn by doing, At this point, using precious class time in other ways will better support their literacy learning.

Though I shared what I had learned, I was always curious about it–I loved SSR as a kid. Didn’t we all?  Didn’t all kids deserve time carved out especially for silent reading?  I wondered: How could that time be used more effectively? How could we, as educators, prove the worth of independent reading? Could someone actually put real, true value on silent reading?

Check it out: How to Make Silent Reading More Meaningful.
Recent research, however, does prove that “more reading leads to better reading” (Sanden 2012), but more specifically, more and more studies are placing real value on independent reading when implemented consciously.

Sherry Sanden is an educator and author who writes about highly effective teachers who have implemented silent reading programs in their classrooms–and these programs yield real student growth, learning, and tons of potential.  Each program contains several of the same components, and Sanden shares her findings in an article in the November issue of The Reading Teacher.

I was particularly moved by her article because–woo-hoo! yaaa-hooo! yip, yip, yippppeeee! woot!–it provided that value to silent reading that I wish I would have had when speaking with those teachers. Yes, silent reading counts. Yes, it sure does.

All we have to do is beef it up a bit.  Check it out: How to Make Silent Reading More Meaningful.

And the cool thing? A lot of what Sanden shares is what many of us do naturally to support our young readers.    All the time? Nah. Every single time we see our kiddo grab a book and sit back to read? No way, Jose. Every so often? Yes, you better believe it.

What do you think? How do you make silent reading more meaningful at your house?  Let me know–I’d love to hear it!

many thanks to the following references:




  1. says

    I love it when my kids read silently, but when they are new independent readers I worry that they are skipping words, misreading words, or reading words that they don’t know the meaning to and thereby losing comprehension. So I typically read together or aloud until they seem like very competent readers.

    My son is 8 and in 2nd grade and just recently starting reading Percy Jackson. He reads pretty well, but he still has those issues above so we mostly read together (which he prefers) but sometimes I ask him to read silently when I’m next to him but busy. What do you do when they can read 90-95% of the text of a chapter book but have no idea what big words mean? I feel like reading out loud is the only way to teach him. He doesn’t always ask for help with a word when he’s reading to himself. He’s too excited with following the plot.

    • amy says

      I think that any time a child is willing to read to himself or herself, we should absolutely celebrate it! But I totally and completely understand your reservations, but I think that the fact is, that even strong readers sometimes miss some elements of comprehension–and it’s just a fact of life. :) Part of what we want to emphasize is that reading isn’t just plowing through those tough words now and again; rather, it’s getting into the habit of employing techniques that strong readers do naturally, like self-monitoring understanding, asking questions, making predictions, making connections–every so often as they read. By practicing and developing those skills, kids will soon learn ways of handling the tough words or doing what they can to better understand the text. And if your son is too caught up in the plot to ask for help, then he must be getting most of the important parts!

  2. says

    We make it a family affair–both of the weekend days, we say “Family Reading Time!” and everyone lays on the couch, on the floor, or wherever and we each do silent reading for 20-30 minutes. Usually my 6yo’s can’t go longer than that. It also happens naturally whenever we come home from the library. Everyone has a big bag of exciting books, so we dump them out and read, read, read.

    • amy says

      GINA! So fun. I love it–what a fun idea. Kind of a great way to start weekend days, too–or decompress after a crazy day! And I agree, my 5 yo usually maxes out at about20-30 min of solo reading. . .

    • says

      When I was growing up reading was always important. We visited the library often and the book stores. Both of my parents are avid readers and I don’t go anywhere without a book! Instilling the love of reading is why I became a teacher in the first place!

      • says

        AWESOME, Michelle! So awesome to hear that your parents showed you how to become a reader by taking you to the library, bookstores, and by making reading a part of your life! Thanks for reading, and HUGE thanks for taking the time to write!!

  3. says

    This is so timely for our family as reading has just really “clicked” for Beezus (7 year old 1st grader) in the last couple months or so. I have wonderful memories of laying in my mother’s bed or on the couch and reading with her, so I try to make sure I actually go to the library and check out a for real book made of paper instead of always reading on the screen.

    I also pick up my new reader’s books and skim through them so I know the right kinds of questions to ask. Good reading comprehension seems to be much more important to me than what level she is reading so I really want to help her with that.

    • amy says

      Thanks so much for mentioning this!! So, so important to actually spend time together reading books–it’s memory-making and learning and precious family time all in one!

  4. says

    I loved the video, “How to Make Silent Reading More Meaningful”. It is exactly what I do in the classroom. For my parents at home, I add one more bit of advice: read the same book as your child. This is great when the student is older, but is showing that he/she is not interested in reading. Then the “sneakiness” of asking questions is easy because now the parent and the child can have a “discussion” about the book. We all talk about a movie we’ve just seen. If we enjoy a book together, then there is an opportunity for discussion before, during, and after reading the book. We don’t even have to read the story to each other. I did this with my own granddaughter. I stayed just ahead of her. Then I wanted to share with her but couldn’t. This spurred her on to continue reading and to begin the discussion when she caught up.

    • amy says

      Terry! Thanks so much for reading and for taking the time to write–means so much! I LOVE your ideas and cannot stress enough the importance of parents reading the same book as your child–and your idea of staying just ahead of him/ her and teasing him/her with exciting details to come is a great idea!!

  5. says

    Great video Amy! Your right about being there when your child is silent reading. I think that it makes them feel more secure when they have a person to ask in the event they come to a word or a concept that they don’t understand. Also, using text to self, and text to world are excellent for a much deeper understanding of the story. I use them all the time when I teach comprehension. I also use text to text, and movement of time within a story. That is a hard concept for children especially if the time is subtle.
    Tonya Simmons

    • amy says

      Thank you thank you thank you, Tonya! You are so correct–these connections are so important for emerging readers, especially if we want them to develop habits of strong readers at an early age! thanks so much for reading, and HUGE thanks for taking the time to share this great point!

  6. Chrissy says

    I am glad to have run onto your article today. We are working with the daily 5 in our classrooms where children are given the opportunity for silent reading, partner reading, or working on their writing as we teach small reading groups. I am finding his to be wonderful in my classroom. Recently administration has wanted for us to increase the accountability of the children as we trust them to independently accomplish this important work. This is where things become tricky. My plan is to have a quick conversation whole group discussing reading techniques employed during this time. Then we can develop an anchor chart as a class with these techniques listed to refer to as the year continues. What I want to avoid is more paper and pencil accountability for the students as we have plenty of that already built into our day and more paper pencil tasks would take away from the daily practice that the students are all loving. My favorite part is where students with drastically different reading levels pour over a book together and have meaningful conversations about text together.

    • amy says

      thank you so much,Chrissy! I totally agree with you–avoiding more paper and pencil work when it comes to reading accountability is so hard! I think your anchor chart is a great idea, and perhaps your own personal notes taken during small groups or one-on-one conversations can help with that? Thanks so much for reading, my friend, and let’s definitely stay in touch!


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