One of the things I have been doing to hoist myself out of this blah-rut that I’ve been slip-sliding around in is this: during the kids’ rest time I drag my laptop from its usual station on the dusty desk in the kitchen and carry it, life cord dangling, into the living room. I set it up on top of the little footstool, plug it in (the battery is dead and costs ninety dollars to replace but I opted to instead spend that money on a pair of luscious slippers from LL Bean and dressy black boots), and plunk myself down on the carpet in front of the blazing fire, my travel mug of coffee sitting levelly beside me on one of the children’s laid-flat library books.

I feel pretty good right now: coffee, toasty fire, chocolate brown slippers, quiet house, and a keyboard. True, there is no internet connection in front of the fire, but that’s okay. This way I have nothing to distract me but my thoughts. This is my writing time.

But back to the title of this post: SSR. No, it does not stand for feminism (which, by the way, I will write more about when I have finished chewing-slash-stewing). It means Sustained Silent Reading.

I am in the process of reading several books, one of which is The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. I bought this book a couple years ago because I wanted access to the extensive list of recommended age-appropriate reads that made up the second part of the book, but I never read the first half of the book until now.

I am finding the book inspiring and motivating on many fronts, but especially in the area of SSR. Trelease is a strong advocate for sustained silent reading, meaning 20-30 minutes of quiet reading each day (this happens quite naturally for homeschooled kids, but not so frequently for school kids during the school day), but it occurred to me that I don’t have sustained silent reading. Oh, I spend lots of time reading, but most of it is skim-reading. I read a short chapter of In Defense of Food, I skim the newspaper, rarely reading an article from beginning to end, I blitz through a bunch of different blogs, I read cookbooks and emails and magazine articles and stories to my children. It’s all reduced to sound bites—a little of this and a bit of that, ideas that are reduced to their bare bones, not delved into and thoroughly explored from all angles. And, sadly enough, most of it isn’t great literature.

So last week when the kids had their rest time, I sat myself down in our new recliner (thanks, Mom and Dad) by the fireplace with a couple books. I told myself I had to read for fifteen minutes before I could go do my writing, but I ended up reading from the Handbook for twenty minutes and then I shifted to In Defense of Food for another fifteen minutes. (Yes, I chuckled at myself for not sticking with one book for the duration, but well…) When I got done reading I felt good. I had absorbed a bunch of solid ideas, delving into topics that were filled with scientific facts and well-though out theories. I comprehended what I read, and I came away smarter, more centered, and fulfilled. I had accomplished something. I had done myself a good deed.

Since then, I have been trying to read more to myself, for extended periods of time, not just little snatches here and there. I also realized that I don’t often read novels, so I picked up several when I was at the library on Saturday. Yesterday I started Jodi Picoult’s The Tenth Circle. I’m loving learning about Dante and hell and all that jazz (really edifying, that hell stuff).

All this to say, do you get your daily dose of SSR? What are you reading now? What would you like to be reading?


  • Anonymous

    SSR was one of my favorite things about 4th grade. That and the quiet time after lunch when we’d all rest our heads on desks and listen to Mrs. Arter read aloud from Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Incredible Journey, and other wonderful books. (Incidentally, these two things are my only memories from 4th grade.)


  • Zoë

    I wish I could make myself read more but don’t, unless you count cookbooks. I can sit and read them for an hour at a time sometimes. But that’s only when the baby is playing nicely and Butch and Germania aren’t meowing and crying to be fed from the syringe.

    The way I post a comment is I select google account then hit post comment. I type the letters I see in the box, and then I have to type a second set of letters because it never accepts the first set. Don’t know what’s up with that but it always works the second time.

  • Jennifer Jo

    Here’s another comment that failed to post: I fully expected one “S” to stand for serotonin; but an Rx of reading? Terrific! Reading is certainly my favorite way to “run away without leaving home” (is that included in Twyla Tharp’s “art”?)


  • Anonymous

    The study guide for a Praxis test: Principles of Learning and Teaching. Aggggh.

    Also, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.

    Newsweek’s behind-the-scenes campaign report was absorbing.


  • Anonymous

    I am reading: Homeschooling The Early Years (which is intimidating me) and The Man Who Ate the World (which is hilarious and fun). Someday I hope to get the time to read a whole book in one sitting again. I fear my children will be adults by the time that happens, though.

    As usual, I am also in the middle of the current issues of Cooking Light and Parenting magazines.

  • Jennifer Jo

    By another friend who couldn’t post (this is disconcerting):

    I can’t post on your blog, for some reason. But on the books: I’m reading
    Disgrace by Coetzee, and some Yeats and Auden. Wish there were more Anthony
    Trollope to read. It’s time to re-read Anna Karenina and D’s The Idiot, and
    I think maybe Confederacy of Dunces over the holidays. After that I dunno.

    Why not read a good translation of The Divine Comedy itself? I bet you’d
    like it…


  • Anonymous

    Wish I was reading Barbara Kingsolver again, but I’m not until I finish a certain project here at home. I started last year reading her books in chronological order of publication date, stopped after Poisonwood Bible.


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