Shanahan (2016) makes three
unsubstantiated claims about sustained silent reading (SSR).
A "tiny" effect?
Shanahan states that "the effects of DEAR, SSR,
SQUIRT or any of the other 'independent reading time' schemes are tiny when it
comes to reading achievement."
Shanahan does not cite any sources for
this claim. Several meta-analyses of studies done with second language
acquirers, however, show that effect sizes for SSR are quite respectable and
the results for readers of different ages are similar. Table 1 summarizes
these studies. (Several individual studies are included in more than one
meta-analysis, but the overlap is not complete.)
Table 1: Meta-analysis of the effect of
Sustained Silent Reading
Jeon & Day (2016)
N = number of studies
In Tse, Xiao, Ko, Lam, Hui, and Ng
(2016), fourth grade children in
Taiwan and Hong Kong who reported doing more independent reading in their first
language in school scored higher on the PIRLS 2006 reading test, controlling
for students' reading attitude, parents'
reading attitude, home education resources, the amount of outside schol
informational reading done, and the amount of in-class reading aloud done by
Students indicated how much SSR they
were doing on a four point scale where 1 = none at all and 4 = every day or
nearly every day. The results predict that a school moving from doing no SSR to
an every day or nearly every day program will experience a PIRLS gain of 20
points for Hong Kong schools and 45 ponts for Taiwan schools, which is
The "failure" of SSR?
Shanahan also states "As it became
obvious and research accumulated showing the lack of learning from
unaccountable reading (e.g., DEAR, SSR) ...".
The evidence cited above confirms that
SSR works, as do many other studies (Krashen, 2004, 2005, 2011).
Does SSR promote a reading habit?
Shanahan also claims
that "research doesn’t provide us with methods proven to increase the
likelihood kids will become lifelong readers. But it does give us insights into
what does motivate people. SSR and DEAR do not match well with those
Studies have confirmed that
who have participated in SSR programs read more on their own than those who
have not, both immediately after the program ends (Pilgreen and Krashen, 1993)
as well as years later (Greaney and Clarke, 1975).
McKool (2007) interviewed
fifth graders who were clearly "avid readers." Avid readers ...
reported that voluntary reading was promoted in their classes through the
practice of Sustained Silent Reading ... they felt ... that it was critical for
teachers to allow them to read whatever they wanted to read. When avid readers
were asked to read required materials during this time, they frequently
admitted that 'This makes me not want to read.'" (p. 125).
The research does not
support Shanahan's claims.
E-Y., and Day, R. (2016). The
effectiveness of ER on reading proficiency: A meta-analysis. Reading in a
Foreign Language 28(2): 246-265.
Greaney, V., and M. Clarke, M. (1973). A longitudinal study of the
effects of two reading methods on leisure-time reading habits. In Reading: What
of the future? ed. D. Moyle. London: United Kingdom Reading Association. Pp.
Pilgreen, J. and Krashen, S. (1993). Sustained silent
reading with English as a second language high school students: Impact on
reading comprehension, reading frequency, and reading enjoyment. School Library
Media Quarterly 22: 21-23.
S. (2004). The Power of Reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, and Westport, CONN:
Libraries Unlimited (second edition).
S. (2005) Is In-School Free Reading Good for Children? Why the National Reading
Panel Report is (Still) Wrong Phi Delta Kappan 86(6): 444-447.
S. (2007). Extensive reading in English as a foreign language by adolescents
and young adults: A meta-analysis. International Journal of Foreign Language
Teaching 3 (2): 23-29.
S. (2011). Free Voluntary Reading. Westport: Libraries Unlimited.
T. (2014). A meta-analysis of extensive reading research. TESOL Quarterly
McKool, S. 2007. Factors that influence the
decision to read: An investigation of fifth grade students' out-of-school
reading habits. Reading Improvement 44(3): 111-131.
Shanahan, T. 2016). Does independent reading time during the school day
create lifelong readers?
K., Xiao, X. Y., Ko, H. W., Lam, J. W. I., Hui, S. Y., & Ng, H. W.
(2016). Do reading practices make a difference? The analysis of PIRLS data for
Hong Kong and Taiwan fourth-grade students. Compare: A Journal of
Comparative and International Education. 46(3).