More high school students who engaged in sustained silent reading (SSR) at school read books for leisure and saw reading as a pleasurable activity, reports a study of more than 200 freshman students. However, fewer students spent an hour or more of their own free time reading and fewer students thought reading books for leisure was useful and meaningful.
“The cognitive reactions of students to reading books should be of concern,” writes researcher Siah Poh Chua for The Clearinghouse. “Students spent fewer hours reading books for leisure after school subsequent to the launch of the SSR program.”
All students at the secondary school spent 20 minutes reading a book of their choice every day during first period. Teachers acted as role models by also doing their own reading. Teachers allowed no interruption of reading and encouraged students to write notes and reflections in their reading journals.
The students in the study completed brief questionnaire three times from October 2002 to October 2003. The questionnaires asked them how much they read books for leisure and how many hours they spent reading after school.
To gauge their attitudes toward reading, the questionnaires asked them what they thought about reading books for leisure and asked them to estimate how many of their classmates engaged in reading during the SSR period. During the study, estimates of how many classmates engaged in reading during SSR increased from 62% to 81%.
While the percentage of students who agreed reading was pleasurable increased from 41% to 55% during the course of the study, the proportion who found reading to be meaningful decreased from 68% to 62% and the proportion who found it to be useful decreased from 73% to 66%.
The Clearinghouse, March-April 2008, pp. 180-184.