During our summer book study about literacy using the book The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease there have been several questions about what SSR looks like in a preschool or kindergarten classroom.
First, let me start by saying that we (and by we I mean teachers) often get hung up on semantics. There’s also the little problem called “extreme acronym overload” in our profession- we really don’t need any more, yet they just keep appearing.
The acronym SSR stands for Sustained Silent Reading and it sounds like a “big kid” thing, but the reality is that the children in our classrooms are already looking at books, so how about examining our practice to see if there is anything we are already doing to support SSR in our classrooms?
- Kids look at books in the classroom independently daily- check
- Kids learn how to handle and care for books- check
- Kids are motivated to read/look at books independently- check
Oh, and the “silent” portion usually throws early childhood teachers off because there are very few things 4 or 5 year olds do that are silent. They should be looking at books and sharing their observations with their peers, talking is absolutely a part of the process with this age group- not shouting across the room, but engaging in conversation- yes, absolutely.
Yep, I’ve got SSR, and I bet you do too! One thing I did was to rename SSR to B.E.A.R. which stands for Be Excited About Reading. When you think about it, that is exactly what we as teachers of young children do, we get kids excited about reading by reading aloud to them and providing them with books that are engaging and motivate them to read.
So now you’re probably thinking, great so how do I fit this into my already so-jam-packed-I-can’t-breathe schedule? Again, let’s not over think things, something else most of us are guilty of. These are 4-5 year olds we’re talking about here; they have absolutely no stamina for lengthy sustained silent reading sessions. I usually start with a goal of 5 minutes a day (and if you meet that goal, party like its 1999!) and work my way up to about 10-15 minutes by the end of the year. Oh, and if you follow the Reading Workshop framework the independent reading portion is SSR so you’re covered.
So, let’s review, we know what SSR looks like in an early childhood classroom and we know that it doesn’t take up much time. Here are a few tips to get you started in your classroom.
5 Tips for SSR and Literacy in Pre-K and Kindergarten
In the beginning of the year read books about books, here are a few of my favorites:
Reading Makes You Feel Good by Todd Parr
Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn
Lola Loves Stories by Anna McQuinn
The Best Place to Read by Susan Bloom and Debbie Bertram
Introduce your students to the classroom library and how to handle books properly. I usually do this on the first day of school by reading the book Mr. Wiggles by Paula M. Craig, which is sadly currently out of print. I use a stuffed bookworm I found at an off brand dollar store several years ago that looks just like the character in the book- but you could easily use a green sock to make your own puppet. After I read the story to the class I pass the character around and they each take turns holding it and promising to take good care of the books in our classroom library. I model how to find a book, look at it nicely, and return it to the proper location.
Next, I tell them that Mr. Wiggles will be watching as they look at books and selecting a few people who are following his directions to share their “super reading strategies” with the class. At the end of our very brief SSR session I select two students quietly, tell them what they were doing such as “Mr. Wiggles noticed you were turning the pages so gently in that book, that’s what good readers do, would you share your strategy with the class in a minute?” and I give them a Mr. Wiggles stick to hold. Of course, I couldn’t tell you about the Mr. Wiggles sticks and not provide you with a freebie so click on the picture above to get your copy!
Place books in every center in your classroom. Make sure students know that looking at or reading these books is always a choice in every single center. As Karen pointed out in her summary of chapter 3, books are an excellent way to address the “I’m done” dilemma.
Place books in your classroom library that you have read aloud to the class and are highly engaging such as Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, and No! David. These are all titles I usually read aloud the first few days of school. Having several copies of each title is highly recommended, especially if you have a large class. Any book you read aloud becomes an instant favorite.
Have a dedicated time for SSR in your classroom daily, I usually have B.E.A.R. time during arrival for the first few minutes- but everybody has different schedules so you may find that another time works best for your class. Once I establish that one time for B.E.A.R. during the day the kids will begin asking if we can have more time for reading such as after lunch, recess, or when they’re “done” with an activity. When they start asking for more that is when you will know your B.E.A.R. time is a success.
I hope you found these tips for starting SSR in preschool or kindergarten helpful. Please share in the comments or link up via the linky if you have any additional ideas for establishing successful SSR routines in your early childhood classroom.
Check out the links below for more discussion about The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease.