How to Develop Reading Stamina for Struggling Readers

Posted by Erica Warren on

Tackling the challenge of building reading stamina in struggling readers requires a thoughtful approach. Often, these readers find themselves disengaged after just a few pages, as the act of reading can feel daunting and mentally exhausting. However, the goal is not only to increase their endurance but also to ignite a passion for reading. To achieve this, we need to employ strategies that make reading more accessible and enjoyable. In this article, we'll explore innovative and effective techniques to help learners overcome obstacles and discover the joy in  reading.

Student happy to be reading and smiling

What is Reading Stamina?

Reading stamina refers to a reader's ability to focus and read for extended periods of time without becoming distracted or losing interest. It's a skill that allows individuals to maintain concentration and comprehension over longer reading sessions. Developing reading stamina is important for academic success and for enjoying longer works of literature. It's similar to physical stamina, but instead of physical endurance, it involves mental endurance for reading. Building reading stamina typically involves gradually increasing the time spent reading, creating a conducive reading environment, and choosing engaging material. As reading stamina improves, so does the ability to understand and absorb more complex and lengthy texts.

Why Do Some Students Struggle with Poor Reading Stamina?

Often, difficulties in developing reading stamina are linked to broader cognitive challenges. For instance, if readers exert excessive effort in decoding words, their mental capacity for understanding the text can be significantly reduced. Similarly, even if they can decode words effectively, deficiencies in other cognitive areas such as tracking, visualization skills, or working memory might hinder their ability to comprehend what they read.


Here's a breakdown of some common cognitive areas that might impede reading progress:

  1. Weak Visual Processing Skills: Challenges in interpreting and making sense of visual information can make reading laborious.

  2. Poor Auditory Processing Skills: Difficulties in processing and understanding spoken language can translate into struggles with reading comprehension.

  3. Inadequate Working Memory: Limited capacity to hold and manipulate information can affect the ability to understand and integrate reading material.

  4. Problems Sustaining Attention: Difficulty maintaining focus can disrupt the flow of reading and reduce comprehension.

  5. Trouble Sitting Still: Physical restlessness can distract from the mental focus required for reading.

  6. Insufficient Decoding Skills: Struggles with decoding can slow down reading and make it tiring.

  7. Limited to No Visualization Skills: Difficulty in creating mental images from text can reduce engagement and understanding of the material.

    dyslexia resources

    Strategies To Improve Reading Stamina

    Building reading stamina in children can be a collaborative effort between teachers and parents. Here are some effective strategies:

    1. Strengthen Cognitive Areas: Use cognitive games and activities to bolster areas where the child may be weaker, such as visual and auditory processing, working memory, attention, and decoding skills. Making these skills more automatic can reduce the mental strain of reading. Explore these activities for improvement:

    2. Structured Reading Programs: Implement reading programs that use a multisensory, step-by-step approach, emphasizing phonemic awareness, syllabication, and word morphology.

    3. Create a Reading Nook: Design a cozy, inviting space for reading, equipped with comfortable pillows, stuffed animals, and soft lighting. This helps in making the reading experience enjoyable and secure.

    4. Echo Reading: This involves the teacher or parent reading a sentence, followed by the child reading the same sentence. It's a fun way to improve listening skills and whole word recognition.

    5. Take Turns Reading: Alternating reading responsibilities gives the child a break from decoding, allowing them to focus on listening and visualization.

    6. Gamify Reading: Incorporate reading goals into games. For example, create a horse race game where each page read represents a part of the track. This makes reading more engaging and fun.

    7. Improve Visual Tracking Skills: Improving visual tracking skills can significantly boost reading stamina by enabling smoother and more efficient eye movements across the text, reducing strain and fatigue, and thereby enhancing overall reading comfort and endurance.

    8. Utilize Audiobooks: Encourage the use of audiobooks to support whole word recognition and visualization. Services like Bookshare or RazKids offer great resources.

    9. Personalize Book Selection: Help learners choose books based on their interests. Conduct interviews to understand their passions and provide a variety of options.

    10. Reward Effort: Recognize and reward the effort put into reading rather than focusing on any negative behaviors.

    11. Positive Feedback: Always express gratitude and provide positive reinforcement for even the smallest achievements in reading.

    tracking exercises

      Cheers, Dr. Erica Warren

      Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator, and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning. She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Learning Specialist Courses.
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