Reading stamina refers to the ability to focus on a text for long periods of time without getting distracted.
Researchers speculate that one of the reasons for the “fourth-grade reading slump” is the challenge of making the transition between reading short picture books and longer novels. Reading full-length fiction requires readers to sustain attention for longer periods of time and hold a number of details in their heads from beginning to end.
HELPING KIDS BUILD THE STAMINA TO READ A NOVEL FROM BEGINNING TO END
SMALL GROUP NOVEL STUDY
One of the many great things about HIP novels is the careful control of reading difficulty. Unlike most trade books, which have peaks and valleys of challenge, HIP novels are consistent on every page. If your students can read the one chapter of a HIP novel, they can read every chapter.
It’s not necessary (or even desirable) to guide students in a close reading and rereading of every chapter of a novel. Often, reading short excerpts together will provide the support needed for even struggling readers to read the rest of the novel on their own.
Read the first chapter to/with the students. HIP authors make a point of introducing the main characters and the problem or issue in the opening chapters of the book. Guiding students through the first chapter or two will provide the background knowledge they need to be able to read on independently.
Or, choose a different excerpt to guide students through in small group instruction. It doesn’t have to be the first chapter. If you choose a passage that piques their interest, many students will want to read the rest on their own.
Alternate reading one chapter together and the next chapter (or two) independently.
Stop at cliffhanger endings. Most chapters in HIP novels end leaving the reader wondering and (we hope) wanting to read more.
The best way to encourage your students to pick up a particular title is to “booktalk” it. Take a minute at the beginning of independent reading time to read an excerpt aloud and present a quick book talk. Then ask who would like to sign out the book. You might be surprised at who raises their hands.
Help students find books they can read and want to read. Nobody gets engaged in a topic they don’t care about. You can find something for everybody in HIP novels, from sports to the supernatural, horse stories to hostage taking, natural disasters to native folklore.
Make sure their book selections are not too difficult. Independent reading is a time for easy reading. And just because a student’s independent reading score on a one-page oral reading assessment is at a particular level doesn’t mean that student will be able to stick to 70 pages at that level.
If you have adult assistance available, have the student and adult take turns reading a chapter or a page at a time.
Build stamina gradually. Set time or page goals, then allow the student to ‘take a break’ for a few minutes. For example, for ten minutes of reading the novel, the reader gets ten minutes of reading a magazine or joke book.