Building Reading Stamina

February 11, 2024

In a recent article, How to Build Students’ Reading Stamina, Stephen Sawchuk underscores the importance of reading comprehension and the necessity of building students’ stamina to read at length.

He makes the simple, but essential point, writing:

Just as a skilled hitter spends time at the batting cages and a skilled pianist must tickle the ivories, a skilled reader needs to read.

Stephen Sawchuk, Education Week

Despite its significance, the aspect of reading stamina has received less attention in educational research compared to other components of comprehension. Timothy Shanahan, a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago, emphasizes the need for students to engage deeply with texts during reading lessons, suggesting that substantial classroom time should be dedicated to reading and discussing texts to ensure students are truly absorbing the material.

Sawchuk also highlights the challenges to reading stamina presented by modern distractions like smartphones and social media, noting a decline in students’ reading stamina since 2019. However, new opportunities arise with the advent of “knowledge-building curriculum” that offers thematic content and text sets to facilitate class discussion and comprehension. Despite these materials providing longer and more complex texts, they alone do not inherently build reading stamina. Instead, educators suggest incorporating stamina-building exercises into daily reading routines, starting from an early age.

Strategies for building reading stamina include making time for reading and discussing shared texts in class, increasing reading demands gradually, using whole texts for deeper engagement, and maintaining accountability through formative assessments and quizzes. These methods aim to improve students’ ability to focus on and understand texts over extended periods, essential for academic success and lifelong learning.

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