I've been reading a lot of the importance of building reading stamina in our young readers for quite some time. My interest in this topic stemmed from a discussion of a monthly data leadership team meeting in my school. We were talking about reasons why our students were not getting certain items correct on our practice standardized tests when we knew they "knew" the answers. My colleagues felt as if the students grew tired as the practice test went on, were not giving their all or as if they simply gave up.
As a first grade teacher, and literacy instructor, I wondered what can we do to "boost their performance." My response was that we need to build our students' stamina. I feel too often students are reading in guided reading groups or with buddies. There's not enough time built into the day for our young readers to read books at their independent reading level for an extended period of time. The importance of this time is necessary to build a community of strong readers which is essentially our goal as teachers--not to raise standardized test scores.
Independent reading to me means a lot more that just having my students read quietly to themselves. This block of times starts with a minilesson or link to a previous reading lesson. For this, I remind students what particular reading strategy we have been learning. I let them know that they have watched me model the strategy, have helped me with the strategy whole class and have done the strategy in small guided reading groups with my help. It's now time for them to practice using the strategy independently. During independent reading time, I circulate and offer assistance to those students that need it. After independent reading, we have a discussion about which strategies we used and how they helped us overcome reading obstacles.
Everyone gets independent reading time, not just my advanced readers who finish everything early. This time is especially important to my middle and my struggling readers too! Research shows that way too often this population does more worksheets, computer interventions, skills in isolation, etc. when what they need is to be engaged in more reading in books at their appropriate level! Read longer and get stronger.
Reading Rockets defines stamina as "being able to stick with something for periods if time." This "endurance builds strength." It offers these tips for parents which easily apply to what we need to do as teachers.
1. Vary the way the reading is done, especially for new or struggling readers. The three ways to do this are "read to self," "read to a buddy" or "listen to reading." This visual (another Pinterest find) shows reading by yourself, reading to buddy and I'm not too sure of the third icon.
2. Make sure all books read are "just right." A child should be able to decode almost every word in an independent book correctly. Books should interest the child and come from a variety of genres.
3. Set reasonable reading goals. For toddlers and preschoolers, it's difficult for them to sit for a long time, regardless of how engaging the book may be. Start with just a few minutes and then build up from there. Elementary-aged readers should start with 10-15 minutes. A few minutes can be added every few weeks or so.
4. Take time to celebrate and chart progress. Make a graph. Talk about the books, recommend a book to a buddy, go to the library to get more books, etc.
In the older grades, reading stamina is essential in order to navigate through longer text of various forms. It's never too soon to start to build it! Built from the inspiration in the visuals, I came up with a few posters to use with my students. You can get your copy as part of Manic Monday's Classroom Freebies.