Building Stamina: Reading and Otherwise

Building stamina can taking many forms. In the literacy world, we often talk about building reading stamina. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately through the lens of a personal goal for building stamina.

You see, it’s January – that time when many who never frequent the door of a gym create or renew fitness goals once again. I’ve actually belonged to our local, beautiful Community Center for years so I’m used to the January influx of people.

I’m typically a regular in the water aerobics classes – seriously try Aqua Zumba sometime! However, it’s January and it’s very, very cold (think negative temps) in Indiana. And, it’s really hard to talk myself into getting into a (very) cold pool this time of year. So, in order to keep exercising, I decided to change up my fitness routine. Even though I faithfully walk my dog every day, I’ve recently been feeling that I need to build up my stamina for walking. So, the combination of frigid temperatures and my goal to build up walking endurance has led me to lace up my walking shoes and become a regular on the indoor track.

While walking, I’ve observed many types of walkers and joggers. As I was walking the other day, I began thinking about building stamina. I assume that many people exercising have some type of goal they’re trying to reach. My first goal was to simply walk two miles (16 laps to be exact). It didn’t take me long to reach that goal so I’ve stretched it and made a new one.

Mind you, I’m a pretty slow walker although my stamina is steadily increasing. Even though I’m slow and lots of people pass me – walkers included – I reach my goal of 2+ miles each day with no assistance or support. I simply take more time than the average bear. At the same time, I’ve noticed many people – much faster than me – walking or jogging side by side with a buddy who seemingly provides just the right amount of support and perhaps motivation needed. Yesterday, however, I observed an older man who needed lots of support. He was walking on the inner lane and held onto a bar (the track is elevated) as he very slowly and tenuously walked around the track. Additionally, there was a man behind him offering encouragement and who guided a walker just in case the man needed it for additional support. He walked the entire time I was there – step by step with words of encouragement from behind – until he reached his goal for the day.

Student ReadingThis observation led me to think about building reading stamina. Building strong readers is a worthy goal. For some students, reading for 5 minutes is challenging while others can get lost in a book for hours. In an extensive study of independent reading (Anderson, Wilson, and Fielding, 1988), researchers found that the amount of time students spent in independent reading was the best predictor of reading achievement and also the best predictor of the amount of gain in reading achievement made by students between second and fifth grade. Simply put, independent reading builds strong readers.

That said, building reading stamina looks different for varied students. Some students may need short, small goals and frequent check ins. Others may need a buddy system and will benefit from reading with a partner or book club. While other students will be motivated simply by their love of reading.

Finding the right amount of support for students is important as we help students build their reading stamina.  It’s worth the effort since we know that reading builds vocabulary, fluency, and plays an important role in comprehension (Spearritt, 1972).

So, just as I create new goals as I build my stamina for walking, I hope that you’ll consider how to best help your students build their reading stamina in the new year.


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Kimberly has been a teacher, administrator, and literacy consultant who worked in districts across the country to improve student literacy achievement. She currently serves as an Educational Specialist with Solution Tree and project manager for large-scale PLC implementations. Her new book, Blended Vocabulary: Harnessing the Power of Digital Tools and Effective Instruction, was recently released in February, 2017.