Silent Reading for Students

Sustained, Self-Selected reading in ALL Content Areas


Educators must use every opportunity to provide students real experiences in the classroom with the academic language that our content areas require. According to an article by Claire Gordon, published on about the top ten jobs of the future, the medical, technology, and engineering fields are among the fastest growing fields in need of employees.

If we are to really prepare our students for success in the 21st century, then the focus of every teacher, regardless of subject, must be developing students’ reading and vocabulary levels.

It is no longer enough to say that vocabulary acquisition and independent reading only happens in Language Arts, Reading, or English. Vocabulary acquisition and reading fluency and comprehension must happen in all classrooms if we are going to bring students up to the level of cognitive development that is going to be required from them later in life. Students come to us in their education at a deficit in reading and vocabulary understanding.

Therefore, if we are to prepare all students for success, every teacher must provide a language development framework that allows students to develop, internalize, and utilize those powerful and content-rich words and reading skills in their real lives.


Students must read at a higher level, often, in their academic content-area, and they must work with the words, understand the depths of the words, and use the academic language in their writing and speech to truly internalize their learning.

We must allow students to read content-specific texts, journals, articles, fiction and non-fiction silently and often throughout the school day. Bring choices, build libraries, and let students choose.

"Has the ability to read lengthy prose, to think and integrate ideas, or even to read for pleasure been lost by the new generation that is wired, networked, and distracted by the Internet?" -Ornstein and Hunkins

How did we let this happen?

"The habit of reading and simply sitting down and engaging a good book may become a lost art. In a world where we instantly click a link while searching for a name or place or even an item to purchase, it is difficult to picture people seriously reading a collection of poems or a novel. In an age of immediate gratification and instant connection, reading a book can be considered a burden. For many children and youths, reading is considered an 'uncool act' committed by 'uncool kids' who are nonsocial or fat and flabby. The result is that an endless number of good books go unread because the habit of reading is in decline. The long-term effect on the knowledge base and thinking process of American high school and college students is serious, although somewhat difficult to measure and agree upon. It is partially reflected by the fact that only 38 percent of the 12th-graders tested by the National Education Assessment Program (NEAP) were considered 'proficient' readers in 2009."

Ornstein, Allan C.; Hunkins, Francis P. (2012-05-18). Curriculum: Foundations, Principles, and Issues (The Allyn & Bacon Educational Leadership) (Page 138). Pearson Education. Kindle Edition.

What does the research tell us about Reading and Vocabulary?

Theory and Practice

Lev Vygotsky, social development theorist, described that in order to grow in cognitive ability, children must have social interactions centering around that ability before growth in that area could take place. A child’s language ability fits into this theory of social development. By four months of age, a child has heard every sound in their native language, but cannot yet utter a word. As parents and caregivers continue to model use of the language, fluency, and vocabulary, children’s brains make meaningful language connections. Soon enough, a baby becomes a babbling toddler overflowing with new cognitive development in language. Vygotsky claimed that the social interactions must take place first, and soon the learning would appear at the individual level which he called “interpsychological development.”

We’ve long known that we know more language than we speak and this is also true of our students. So how do we draw out students’ language reserves, and help them develop the academic language which they must have to be successful in school and in the work-force? How do we address the growing gap in students’ abilities to read at appropriate levels and provide continued language development in all classes? Schools must promote and believe in the idea that ALL teachers, and especially core teachers, are literacy teachers. All core classrooms, as well as most electives, should provide opportunities for self-selected and sustained reading in every subject and model language study so that student academic language and in-turn reading levels do not stagnate but continue to develop to post-secondary levels by the time students leave high school.

We must allow students to read silently and often throughout the day at school.

How do I make reading accessible in my science, math, social studies, or elective class?

Meet Donalyn Miller

Donalyn Miller is the author of The Book Whisperer

According to her text, Donalyn Miller suggests that all teachers can do a few simple things in the classroom to help students gain stamina and become stronger readers.

Get students interested in a variety of books and give students time every day to read.


"The children cannot wait. They do not have more time."

" We have worked so hard to develop systems to teach reading, yet I claim that we had no justification for systemizing an act like reading in the first place...When you take a forklift and shovel off the programs, underneath it all is a child reading a book" (3).

"Without spending increasingly longer periods of time reading, they won't build any endurance as readers, either. Students need time to read and time to be readers" (51).

"Why aren't we giving students more time for independent reading in class? I hear many teachers say that they cannot set aside time for students to read because they have so much content to cover, but to what end? Because reading has more impact on students' achievement than any other activity in school, setting aside time for reading must be the first activity we teachers write on our lesson plans, not the last" (52).


"Setting aside time for reading must be the first activity we teachers write on our lesson plans, not the last" -Donalyn Miller

Why is silent reading important?

"...if we show students how to embrace reading as a lifelong pursuit...we will be doing what I believe we have been charged to do: create readers" -Donalyn Miller

Theresa Daniels-MED 5303- BIBLIOGRAPHY

Donalyn Miller. Retrieved February 10, 2016, from

Gordon, C. (2016). Top 10 Jobs Of The 21st Century. Retrieved January 25, 2016, from

Half Price Books, Records, Magazines, Inc.

Long, R., & Pearson, P. D. (2013). NCTQ Survey Assails U.S. Teacher Education Programs: IRA's Literacy Research Panel Responds. Reading Today: Informed Content for Literacy Professionals, 30(6), 6-8.

Miller, D., & Anderson, J. (2009). The book whisperer: Awakening the inner reader in every child. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Million Words Campaign. Retrieved February 12, 2016, from

Pikulski, J. J., & Templeton, S. (2004). Teaching and Developing Vocabulary: Key to Long-Term Reading Success. Retrieved January 25, 2016, from

Social Development Theory (Vygotsky) - Learning Theories. (2014). Retrieved January 25, 2016, from

Vanzant, M. (2016, February 10). Why is silent reading important? [Personal interview].

Vocabulary: Ways to Incorporate it in Your Sessions - San Antonio Youth Literacy. (2014). Retrieved January 25, 2016, from

Your Child's Communication: Fifth Grade. (2016). Retrieved January 25, 2016, from

Theresa Daniels

English Department Chair and Block Lunch Coordinator

Hebron Ninth Grade Campus

Lewisville I.S.D.