In our class, at least 15 minutes is spent in absolute silence because of my "one child, one book" rule. Then there is a signal that it is "buddy reading" time. Children read to each other, or look at pictures together. Sometimes a child will find himself reading to several children at once. Quiet reading is the time I take to read one-on-one with children - always informally and formally assessing their skills. Many times, however, I sink into a book of my own.
In the not-so-distant past, some people questioned the value of having a time set aside for quiet reading. They wondered if it wasn't a bit of a "waste", and that direct instruction would be more worthwhile. Fortunately, there has been much research that supports the value of quiet reading time, as it:
* Increases children enjoyment of books, and they have a better attitude about reading
* Develops skills, such as spelling, comprehension, and vocabulary
* Increases reading speed
I would also argue that there are socio-emotional benefits as well. Children feel empowered because they are allowed to read what they are interested in, and there are a lot of good feelings generated when cuddled with some friends with shared interests. It is also just a sweet, quiet time where children can be calm and relaxed.