Resource 4: Sustained silent reading

Background information / subject knowledge for teacher

Developing sustained silent reading (SSR) in your classroom is important in encouraging your pupils to want to read and developing their reading skills. For SSR to succeed requires some careful planning ahead. You will need to gather together resources for your class or a group to read. These could be articles from newspapers or magazines, books, etc. You need to be resourceful to gather these and also to store them so they are not lost or damaged.

If you have enough resources for your whole class, you could do SSR once a week at the start or end of the day. If you only have a limited number of resources, you could do it with one group each day and also work with your class to make more class books to read.

Questions to ask

These are examples of questions that could be asked about many different kinds and levels of storybooks, but you may prefer to ask pupils for just a brief comment.

  1. What happens in the first part (introduction, beginning) of the story?
  2. What happens in the middle part (where there are complications or conflicts in the story)?
  3. What happens at the end (resolution)?
  4. Is there a problem that needs to be solved?
  5. What is the goal of the main character or characters?
  6. What happens to the characters in the different parts of the story? What difficulties do they face?
  7. Have similar things ever happened to you?
  8. If their first attempt is unsuccessful, do the main characters get another chance to achieve their goal?
  9. What happens to the characters at the end?
  10. How do you feel about this story? Did it make you think about your own life or anyone else’s? If so, in what way(s)?

Keeping a reading record

As pupils carry out SSR it is useful for them to keep records of the books they have read and to comment on what they did or did not like about them. It is also a way of seeing what breadth of material they are reading and the kinds of things that interest them. It tells you how much they are reading, especially if you encourage them to also include books, newspapers, magazines, etc. that they read at home or elsewhere. With newspapers and magazines, you may suggest they only add these when they read them regularly and say how often they read them. They may want to include articles from particular magazines.

Keeping a record must not become a bore, as this will put pupils off reading. Each record should only include the title and author and maybe publisher if you wish to add the book to the class collection (if you have a budget). The pupil could say if they liked the book and why, and if they’d recommend it to others to read.

The record could be a class one, where the title of each book in the library is on the top of a sheet of paper and every time someone reads this book they sign the list and put in a short comment. Another way is for each pupil to have a page at the back of an exercise book where they keep a list of the books they have read and every time they finish a book or give up on a book they make a comment next to the title and author. It would be useful if these entries are dated, so you can see how often they are finishing a book etc.

Collecting and displaying materials for SSR

If you need to start your own classroom library, the first requirement is to collect books and magazines. There are organisations that can help schools obtain books. Here are some useful contacts.

  • Kenya Publishers Association
  • P O Box 42767
  • 00100 Nairobi
  • Macmillan Kenya Publishers Ltd
  • Kijabe Street
  • P O Box 30797
  • 00100 Nairobi
  • Tel: +254 0 220012
  • Website:
  • Jomo Kenyatta Foundation
  • P O Box 30533
  • 00100 Nairobi

For more information on SSR, the following website is also useful:

Sometimes the embassies of foreign countries or organisations linked to embassies, such as the British Council, are able to make donations of books. Service organisations such as Rotary Clubs also collect and donate books. If you cannot contact any organisation for assistance, then try asking colleagues and friends to donate books and magazines that their children or other family members have finished with. Some schools ask parents to help teachers to organise fundraising events and then they use the money that is raised to buy books. Key Resource: Being a resourceful teacher in challenging conditions explores this further.

Once you have enough books and magazines for all the pupils in your class to read individually, you need to think about how to look after these precious materials. If you have, or could make (or get someone else to make), some shelves for one side or the back of your classroom, you could then display the books and magazines in order to attract pupils’ interest. In an exercise book, write down the titles of the books and magazines so that you can keep track of them. At the end of each SSR period, watch carefully to check that pupils return the books to the shelf.

If you do not have shelves, then pack the books and magazines carefully into boxes. You may like to choose some pupils to be book monitors to help you distribute books from the boxes at the beginning of the reading period and to pack them away at the end.