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* When I (Lee-Daniels) started teaching second graders, I envisioned my students dropping everything to read, excitement in their eyes, smiles of anticipation on their eager faces. But after a few months, I wanted to drop my voluntary reading program.
Let me start at the beginning. The best reading practice is reading. Avid readers improve their reading fluency, acquire new vocabulary, absorb knowledge of the world, and even heighten their intelligence (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1998).
But what does it take to get children reading? Do we assign reading homework and hope children adopt the reading habit? Do we provide incentives, and if so, should they be tangible or intangible, and what exactly do we reward? Do we organize literature discussion groups? Do we give children choices about what they read, stimulate their interest with book talks, or take them to the library regularly? An effective voluntary reading program may involve many such elements (Wilson, 1992).
One of the most promising approaches is Sustained Silent Reading (SSR), or more affectionately, Drop Everything and Read (DEAR). DEAR has been a popular approach to reading practice for more than 30 years (Moore, Jones, & Miller, 1980). In DEAR, the teacher provides a regular, fixed time for voluntary reading. During this time, everyone (including the teacher)puts aside all other work and reads. As children …