By: Alexis Gomez

The concept of helping students build reading stamina is not a new one. It is a task that has been tackled by educators for decades. However, within the past decade, and particularly since 2019, new challenges have persisted. The rise of smartphones, social media, and the COVID-19 pandemic has been especially impactful on the dramatic decline of students’ overall reading stamina.

While building and maintaining reading stamina is a process that takes time and consistency, these tips can help teachers further nurture their students’ growth and progress.

1. Reading and Talking About Shared Texts at School

Teachers should aim to have students read together in class for sustained periods of time. When students read in class, it allows them to better navigate complex syntax together, as compared to reading individually at home. When teachers discuss the texts in class, students can better understand the meaning, nuances, and craft.

2. Gradually Increasing the Reading Requirements for Students

For younger readers, teachers can gradually increase the reading load by adding a few more sentences at a time. For older students, an increase in reading load could be a few more pages at a time. According to University of Illinois at Chicago professor emeritus, Timothy Shanahan, teachers can also set “stretch goals” where they use either a longer text or a shorter, but more difficult one to build stamina.

3. Using Whole Texts Instead of Excerpts

According to experts interviewed by Education Week, whole texts tend to be richer and gradually make more demands on the reader. Larger works with multiple chapters require students to sustain stamina so that they can uncover the work’s larger layers and significance. Minnesota teacher Eric Kalenze noted that with larger works, “You get to watch characters develop and do more knowledge-building through the things authors don’t explain.” He also argued, “With excerpts, I don’t think you get cumulative gain in quite the same way. There’s just no substitute for watching how a novelist works or how their arc builds.” Additionally, teachers might consider using a larger work such as a novel to make it easier to increase students’ reading load. Focusing on one work may also be easier than trying to juggle multiple shorter works with different levels of complexity.

4. Monitoring Progress

Simple assessments are one way that teachers can monitor the extent to which their students are building their reading stamina. A quick pop quiz with basic questions about the characters, plot, or key details can help teachers prompt students to do their reading, as well as gauge how well they understood it. It can also help teachers recognize where students might be struggling, and particularly challenging aspects of the text that should be reviewed so that students can better comprehend them. Kalenze noted that, “Without a daily accountability, it really adds up over time. When you start to attach this accountability, you hit a rhythm and you start to notice that all the kids have read. It forces you to do your homework, sit down for an hour, and read.”