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.
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, horses to hostages, natural disasters to native folklore.
Make sure their book selections are not too difficult. Independent reading is a time for easy reading.
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.
Teach students how to preview a book. All too often, they resort to “judging a book by its cover” – which may well be the worst way to pick a book!
- Look at the “blurb” on the back cover or inside the flyleaf to get a summary of the text. Does the description interest you?
- Pic-flick through chapter headings and illustrations, if available.
- Choose a couple of pages at random (anywhere in the book) to read to yourself. Do they sound interesting and easy to read? Does the “voice” speak to you?
Try READING SPEED-DATING! Gather a collection of books, enough for one per student. Give each student a book and set a timer for 3 minutes. Have students use the three-step previewing process to look over each book and decide whether they would like to read it. When the timer goes, they must pass that book along to the next person and try another book.
You might want to provide students with a list of the books available so they can mark each title they previewed, with a * (“I’m interested in reading this”), an X (“Not interested”) or a ? (“Maybe”). With luck, your students will come out of the experience with a list of books they are interested in reading!
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.