Free Voluntary Reading (also known as SSR, Extensive Reading, and a number of other terms) is a key element in the English curriculum at our school — and in many others. It’s basically the practice of having students read a book of their choice during a period of time in class, and encourage that they do the same at home (you an learn more about it at The Best Resources Documenting The Effectiveness of Free Voluntary Reading).

In class, especially during two-period double block mainstream and ESL classes, we generally have students read for the first fifteen or twenty minutes. Kelly Young from Pebble Creek Labs, our extraordinary instructional strategies consultant about whom I have often written, is always pushing us to be active and walking around during this time, talking with students about what they are reading, having them read passages to us, asking them questions, etc.

We all know that what he’s suggesting is the right thing to do. To be honest, though, for many of us, it’s easy to, instead, use a a portion of that time to get ready for the lesson, answer a couple of school emails, clean-up papers from the previous class, or just take a breather for a minute or two. The spirit is willing, but the body sometimes doesn’t follow.

However, a new study might give all of us a little bit of a push to take Kelly’s words more seriously.

In an article in the Journal of Educational Psychology, researchers found that teachers providing individual feedback to students during this kind of reading time was, by far, one of the most effective ways to help improve students’ reading ability. It primarily looked at students using their silent reading time to read class text (thought not exclusively), but it seems close enough to the basic ideas of Free Voluntary Reading that we should carefully consider what they found.

You can watch a video about the study, too, at Best Practices Weekly.

What do you do during the time your students Free Voluntary Reading time, if that’s a practice you use?