Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

The Bliss of SSR


Teen Read Week is coming up. It got me thinking about the need for teens to read.

Back in the day before screens ruled the scene, books were on student desks and in their hands. Accelerated Reader got kids reading — even if it was just for points. That ingrained habit stuck and most high schoolers kept up the practice of reading. Okay, Harry Potter helped as well.

Since we did not prescribe to point system reading at the high school level I initiated ten minutes of sustained silent reading or SSR. Before I get too many Book Booster kudos, I freely admit I did it mainly for classroom management purposes. My ninth graders were volumes heavy in energy and it would usually take ten minutes to call them down. With the routine of SSR they sat down, silently read, and class resumed in a calm manner. Why did I stop?

I have often asked myself that.

Something about increased curriculum needs, not enough time, correcting badly written, mostly plagiarized book reports.

After a five plus years hiatus SSR is back in style in my classroom. Frustrated with students who brag about never reading, getting them away from thumb swiping into page flipping, and needing to boost their SAT scores I decided to return to SSR. That class management aspect too.

Our district has gone to the one to one system where every student receives a laptop. That’s a whole different blog post. What this does allow is changing the format of the dreaded book report. They are now PowerPoints. Google Docs even provides a template.

I’m actually looking forward to them.

As the end of first quarter approaches, I notice that students are actually engaged and interested in reading. And even if they aren’t they are at least quiet for ten minutes.

I read along with them, and share my thoughts about the book I’m currently reading. Sometimes they share too.

The funniest aspect of SSR is the one book that gets grabbed off my shelf. Because if they forget their book they need to be reading, and I’ve got quite a few to choose from on my bookshelf. So which book is the go to book? Moby Dick. I kid you not. Is it to prove they are a mighty reader to take on this whale of a story?

I watched one student grab it, smirk to his friends his choice, and surreptitiously snuck glances at what he did with it: looked at the front and back covers, flipped the pages, gazed at the maps, flip more pages, and then he began to read it. From the front.

Yeah. SSR is a three letter word for bliss.

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9 thoughts on “The Bliss of SSR

  1. Thanks for this excellent testimonial. It makes me think I should read Moby Dick. Maybe this winter.

  2. As a teacher, you must love the “Silent” part of that acronym.

  3. Wow to the ending! I’m pretty sure I just teared up. My son was not a reader, even with the influence of a mom who taught children’s lit. He had an eye tracking problem, so maybe that was some of the problem. I tried to teach him how to read with only one line showing at a time, but that was annoying and, what was worse than anything to him, embarrassing. I got him to read a couple of books by making him read a certain amount of pages/chapters each day during summer break. But the book he ended up WANTING to finish was The Giver. What broke my heart more than my own kids not being enthusiastic readers was that my next door neighbor, a 4th grade teacher, bragged about never having read a whole book, not even for grad school.

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