Why Kids Should Read Novels During SSR Time

 In Support for Struggling Readers, What We're Talking about at HIP
Part of me believes that kids should be able to read whatever they want during SSR (Sustained Silent Reading) Time, whether it’s magazines, manuals or comic books – as long as they’re reading something. But in today’s world of sound bites and 140 character messages, I’m concerned that many of us (even adults) are losing the reading stamina to sustain attention for a full-length book. And I’m concerned that many of our kids will never read an entire novel if they don’t do it in school. I’m not talking about class novel studies here; I mean the kind of reading that requires readers to independently navigate print, draw inferences, watch characters grow and get carried along in a developing plot line.
We know that many of our reluctant readers prefer nonfiction texts. And there’s an important place for informational reading in our literacy programs. Nonfiction can be full of fascinating facts. But it’s a different kind of reading process that doesn’t require readers to hold a set of details in their heads from start to finish of a lengthy piece of text.

Reading fiction actually makes us smarter. It builds the kinds of “Tier 2” vocabulary (rich words for familiar concepts) and background knowledge so important for further reading and learning. And, according to a 2014 study, becoming engrossed in a novel actually enhances connectivity in the brain and improves brain function! Not surprisingly, reading fiction was found to flex the imagination. But it also improved readers’ ability to feel compassion for others. (Read more about this research in Psychology Today.)

Fiction also helps us understand our world. As Thomas Erlich and Ernestine Fu say in their June 2015 article in Forbes Magazine, we learn much about how best to live our lives in ways that can only be captured by fiction. In fact, we think “fiction” is a misnomer…“Fiction” means “untrue,” and the best stories and novels contain wisdom for living that cannot be captured in any other way.

 Makes a pretty good case for making kids read novels during DEAR time, doesn’t it?

Read more about Making the Most of SSR (Sustained Silent Reading) here.

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