Last week I had a chat with my nephew who is a grad student studying history and I found myself talking about what I like to call, reading stamina. Like most things reading is a skill and we all learn how to read as children, but no one ever talks about how exhausting reading can be, unless you are in the humanities like a literature, history, or philosophy major especially in grad school. The good thing about reading is that it is a buildable skill the more you read the easier it gets.
So that conversation got me to thinking about my students and how little they actually read. Of course most of us love to spend time online because it is easier especially after a long day. It seems that the more we use the internet and stay connected on social networks and the like, the less we enjoy reading for extended periods of time. As great as the internet is it is also extremely addicting because it offers a lot of easy content 24/7. Add the instant accessibility to everything from Instagram to streaming the newly released movie on our smart phone. Many of us end up going down the rabbit hole of watching Instagram stories or Tiktok videos for a couple of hours thinking we only spent 20 minutes on it. So where do we go from here?
Whether students like to admit it or not, reading is extremely important to the development of their thinking and critical skills. How do we get students not just to read their textbooks, but also learn to love books and reading? This love of reading can be developed as an adult, but it can take a lot longer to develop that habit because of all of the distractions around us. It really should begin in elementary school. It only takes a couple of really good ELA teachers to help create the foundation for a reading habit to grow along with the help of a parent that is willing to emulate the activity and show the child that there is in fact just as much joy and excitement that s/he can get from a book as they can from a video game. I know it sounds like a stretch to suggest that both reading and gaming can bring the same the amount of pleasure and happiness, but it’s true. It is a matter of mind set. Now I am not going to talk about reading strategies because if you google them hundreds of posts are going to appear.
What I am going to talk about is how I turned my child into reader. Before I begin let me tell you that he is an active child who plays the trumpet, guitar, bikes, skateboards, is on a swim team, and also loves playing video games on his Nintendo switch, so it is not like all he does is read. Having said that, when he was young and couldn’t read well, I started by trying to figure out what kind of books a little boy would like to listen to especially once he started kindergarten. So, I took him to the local library as well as the bookstore and let him pick his own books and then we took them home and every night I read for at least 30 minutes. In the beginning he couldn’t settle down long enough to listen to me read more than a few sentences, but slowly he got use to me reading and he started listening. It came to a point that he would ask me to read and to this day, even though he is in the 5th grade of elementary school he still asks me to read to him. Of course, now a days he mostly reads on his own. Reading has become part of his day, so he continues to read every night even if it is summertime. These days his reading stamina has increased to the point that he reads books like Percy Jackson, Land of Stories, and the Chronicles of Narnia.
So, to answer how does one develop reading stamina, well it is kind of obvious, don’t you think? Read. Read anything that you think you would like and start slow but read every day. Make it a habit. Something you look forward to at the end of a long day.
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