— Every morning from 10:07 a.m. to 10:27 a.m., Zionsville West Middle School is silent.
The occasional sound of a page turning or a brief chuckle or gasp is heard as students, teachers and staff are joined by one common endeavor — reading.
Silent Sustained Reading began as an everyday occurrence at Z’West in February. An idea brought to teachers by Principal Kris Devereaux, teachers unanimously voted to carve out 20 minutes a day to develop and instill a life-long love of reading in their students.
“It’s only been implemented for a few weeks but all research shows that students become better readers, and it helps with vocabulary development and writing,” Devereaux said. “The value of reading benefits children and we hope to continue this for the rest of the year and in other years because you have to give time for what you value.”
Literacy expert Kelly Gallagher said American schools are ignoring the importance of recreational reading. Z’West teachers participated in a book study of Gallagher’s benchmark book, “Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What you Can Do About It,” leading to the schools reading intervention.
During the SSR, students are able to choose what they read, whether it is fiction, non-fiction, or a magazine. SSR is the time for students to uncover what they love to read, not what they have to read.
On Thursday, March 3, and Friday, March 4, guest readers joined classrooms with their own reading materials in hand to sit and recreationally read. Guests include Adam Jones, IDOE English Language Arts Specialist, Boone County Sheriff Ken Campbell and Zionsville Town Council member Tim Haak.
“The students had the opportunity to see adults in a variety of professions read all different kind of material,” Devereaux said. “I think it really emphasized reading, the love of reading and how the benefits last your entire life not just while at school.”
Devereaux said parents and Half Price Books donated boxes of books to ensure each classroom has a variety of material at all different levels and genre’s to choose from.