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Literacy: Sustained Silent Reading

June 2017


What is the current research on sustained silent reading?


Following an established REL Central research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles to help answer the question. The resources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic databases, and general Internet search engines. (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response, and we offer them only for your reference. Also, we compiled the references from the most commonly used resources of research, but they are not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist.

Research References

Garan, E. M., & DeVoogd, G. (2008). The benefits of sustained silent reading: Scientific research and common sense coverage. The Reading Teacher, 62(4), 336–344. Retrieved from
Full text available

From the abstract:

“Many teachers and administrators are caught between opposing forces in education. Often, they’re forced into compliance with scientifically based reading research (SBRR) requiring methods and materials that run counter to their own beliefs. Or, teachers are forced to eliminate reading methods that their own experience has shown to be effective. This is particularly true in the case of Sustained Silent Reading (SSR). There is considerable confusion and division in the profession surrounding federal research and what that research has determined about the role independent reading should play in classrooms. This article will help teachers resolve that tension by clarifying the federal research findings, separating data from opinion, and offering variations on ‘pure’ SSR so teachers can develop their teaching practices using sound research and their own professional autonomy. When the research facts are unraveled from misinterpretations and opinion, we find that SSR is not only intuitively appealing but also is supported by research.”

Kim, Y. S., Wagner, R. K., & Foster, E. (2011). Relations among oral reading fluency, silent reading fluency, and reading comprehension: A latent variable study of first-grade readers. Scientific Studies of Reading, 15(4), 338–362. Retrieved from
Full text available

From the abstract:

“The present study examined oral and silent reading fluency and their relations with reading comprehension. In a series of structural equation models (SEM) with latent variables using data from 316 first-grade students, (1) silent and oral reading fluency were found to be related yet distinct forms of reading fluency; (2) silent reading fluency predicted reading comprehension better for skilled readers than for average readers; (3) list reading fluency predicted reading comprehension better for average readers than for skilled readers; and (4) listening comprehension predicted reading comprehension better for skilled readers than for average readers.”

National Reading Panel. (2000). Fluency. In Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction (NIH Pub. No. 00-4754). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Retrieved from

From the executive summary:

“The NRP also examined the accumulated research literature on the effects of programs (for example, Sustained Silent Reading and Accelerated Reader) that encourage children to read on their own. The Panel was able to locate relatively few studies on this topic, and these tended to address a narrow range of procedures. The studies examined the impact of encouraging independent reading on overall reading, rather than on reading fluency, per se. Most of these studies failed to find a positive relationship between encouraging reading and either the amount of reading or reading achievement. Furthermore, few of the studies actually monitored the amount of reading students did in the program; therefore, it is unclear whether the interventions led to more reading, or just displaced other reading that students might have done otherwise. Based on the existing evidence, the NRP can only indicate that while encouraging students to read might be beneficial, research has not yet demonstrated this in a clear and convincing manner.”

Osborn, J., & Lehr, F. (with Hiebert, E. H.). (2003). A focus on fluency: Research-based practices in early reading series. Honolulu, HI: Pacific Resources for Education and Learning. Retrieved from

From the abstract:

“Intended for practitioners, this is the first booklet in the Research-Based Practices in Early Reading series published by the Regional Educational Laboratory at Pacific Resources for Education and Learning. The 31-page booklet summarizes research on fluency and fluency instruction and describes strategies for fluency instruction. It also explains various ways of conducting repeated oral reading, the use of independent silent reading, an integrated fluency instruction approach, the role of texts, and fluency assessment.”

Rasinski, T., Samuels, S. J., Hiebert, E., Petscher, Y., & Feller, K. (2011). The relationship between a silent reading fluency instructional protocol on students’ reading comprehension and achievement in an urban school setting. Reading Psychology, 32(1), 75–97. Retrieved from
Full text available

From the abstract:

“Reading fluency has been identified as a key component in effective literacy instruction (National Reading Panel, 2000). Instruction in reading fluency has been shown to lead to improvements in reading achievement. Reading fluency instruction is most commonly associated with guided repeated oral reading instruction. In the present retrospective study we examine the effects of a computer-based silent reading fluency instructional system called Reading Plus (Taylor Associates, Winooski, Vermont, USA) on the reading comprehension and overall reading achievement of a large corpus of students in an urban school setting. Findings indicate that the program resulted in positive, substantial, and significant improvements in reading comprehension and overall reading achievement on a criterion referenced reading test for Grades 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 and on a norm-referenced test of reading achievement for Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 10. Moreover, mean gains made by students in the Reading Plus intervention were greater than mean gains for all students at the state and district level. The findings were generally positive for all subpopulations studied, including special education and regular education students. Qualitative reports from teachers who participated in the study were also supportive of the program. Implications for the study are explored for particular subgroups of students and for the role of fluency instruction with struggling adolescent readers.”

Reutzel, D. R, Jones, C. D., Fawson, P. C., & Smith, J. A. (2008). Scaffolded Silent Reading: A complement to guided repeated oral reading that works! The Reading Teacher, 62(3), 194–207. Retrieved from
Full text available

From the abstract:

“Scaffolded Silent Reading provides third-grade teachers an alternative for practicing reading that decreases errors and increases students’ reading rates and comprehension.”

Reutzel, D. R., & Juth, S. (2014). Supporting the development of silent reading fluency: An evidence-based framework for the intermediate grades (3-6). International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 7(1), 27–46. Retrieved from

From the abstract:

“Developing silent fluent reading is an important goal to be achieved in elementary literacy instruction. This article reviews characteristics of effective silent reading fluency instruction and practice. Next, the authors make the case for four components of effective silent reading fluency practice routines. Finally, the authors describe two evidece-based silent reading fluency routines – Scaffolded Silent Reading (ScSR) and R5. Evidence of efficacy along with richly described and illustrated examples provide readers with all the necessary information to implement these effective silent reading fluency routines in elementary classrooms.”

Wexler, J., Vaughn, S., Edmonds, M., & Reutebuch, C. K. (2008). A synthesis of fluency interventions for secondary struggling readers. Reading and Writing, 21(4), 317–347. Retrieved from
Full text available

From the abstract:

“Previous research studies examining the effects of fluency interventions on the fluency and comprehension outcomes for secondary struggling readers are synthesized. An extensive search of the professional literature between 1980 and 2005 yielded a total of 19 intervention studies that provided fluency interventions to secondary struggling readers and measured comprehension and/or fluency outcomes. Findings revealed fluency outcomes were consistently improved following interventions that included listening passage previewing such as listening to an audiotape or adult model of good reading before attempting to read a passage. In addition, there is preliminary evidence that there may be no differential effects between repeated reading interventions and the same amount of non-repetitive reading with older struggling readers for increasing reading speed, word recognition, and comprehension.”


Keywords and Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • Sustained silent reading, sustained silent reading fluency, sustained silent reading accuracy

Databases and Resources

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Insititute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the Publication: References and resources published between 2008 and 2017 were included in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority was given to ERIC, followed by Google Scholar.
  • Methodology: The following methodological priorities/considerations were used in the review and selection of the references: (a) currency of available data; (b) study types–randomized control trials, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, etc.; (c) target population, samples (representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected samples, etc.), study duration, and so forth.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Central Region (Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory Central at Marzano Research. This memorandum was prepared by REL Central under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0005, administered by Marzano Research. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.