Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Thesis Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Transformative Education and Social Change

Committee Chairperson

John Elmore, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Paul Morgan, Ph.D.


A significant body of research and several large-scale studies reveal young adults are spending less time reading, and reading comprehension skills are eroding (National Endowment for the Arts, 2007). According to Moje, Overby, Tysvaer, & Morris (2008), a staggering 49% of teenagers don’t have the reading skills needed to succeed in college. At the same time, traditional English curricula in the United States do not typically prioritize a daily practice of student-driven independent reading in class.

This thesis synthesizes an array of research and experience within a framework of critical pedagogy to argue the wide-ranging benefits of daily independent reading and student choice. I examine the role of literacy education in a democracy, the psychological and social factors the shape a successful independent reading program, the history of literacy in America, and the importance of reading in a technology-filled world. I argue this program of student-driven sustained silent reading (SSR) opens doors to engagement and differentiation, to relationships and relevance. My plan expands the routine of independent reading to boost student achievement in classrooms across the school and district. As the program grows, so will the ripple effects of engagement, reading comprehension, stamina, fluency, and critical thinking within, between, and beyond texts.