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  • Russ Thompson


June 6, 2022.

"I know these kids," he said. "I've been teaching here for thirty-five years. I guarantee they will not read."

It was my second year as the principal of a high school with a history of low reading scores. I was meeting with the department chairpersons to discuss the possibility of starting a sustained silent reading program.

The chairperson of the science department spoke next. "We had sustained silent reading where I taught middle school. I have seen it work. The key is to get books that the kids will want to read."

At the conclusion of the meeting, we agreed to implement an eighteen-minute sustained silent reading period. During that time, every student would read in a book of his or her choice.

We made sure that every classroom had a library of high-interest books that kids would want to read. We also encouraged teachers to serve as role models by reading along with the students.

Reading scores rose every year. The department chairperson who voiced opposition to the plan became one of its biggest advocates.

See below for a video from Liberty High School in Missouri to learn more about implementing sustained silent reading.

Russ Thompson is a retired reading teacher and high school principal who is the founder of Finding Forward Books.

During his time as an educator, mostly in high-poverty areas of Los Angeles, he worked closely with at-risk students.

He observed many successes. He also observed the tragedy of students who did not get the support they needed.

Finding the right books is a big step in helping students improve their reading skills. See more at

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