Chances are, when you hear the word “stamina,” physical fitness comes to mind before reading abilities. But as soon as your child reaches grade school, “stamina” takes on a whole new meaning. A student’s ability to read for an extended period of time with strong comprehension is one of the most important skills he or she will take into adulthood, but there’s a catch…

Just like developing physical stamina, building reading stamina is hard work.

Many children would rather not put in the practice and effort to build reading stamina, and there are plenty of resources that give parents ideas for developing reading stamina at home. But just creating a reading nook and giving a child lots of book choices won’t automatically turn a reluctant reader into a bookworm, nor will it magically fix focus or comprehension issues. If it was an easy skill to develop, reading stamina wouldn’t be one of the biggest challenges facing new college students.

So what’s missing in the approach to this extremely important yet difficult skill? It could be that when it comes to reading stamina, many adults forget one important detail:

None of us thrive when we’re alone, in a hard situation, and don’t know how to move forward.

This is why we have coaches for sports teams. It’s why we hire personal trainers and go to group fitness classes. You’re more likely to make progress if you have an expert helping you learn, stay motivated, and push yourself towards your goal. It’s the difference between walking into a gym feeling overwhelmed and intimidated, and walking into a gym feeling purposeful and confident. Which mindset is more likely to help you have a good workout?

That “first time in the gym” feeling could be happening every time struggling readers stare at a text. In order to help these students build up their reading stamina, they need expert guidance. They need a coach not just at school, but at home.

The good news is, whether you realize it or not, you’re already an elite reading athlete. You are qualified to help coach your child to become a lean, mean reading machine. Here are a few simple but profound reading stamina strategies to help you embrace being the expert who can actively help your child grow those reading muscles.

Track Progress

Part of any coach’s job is to keep track of an athlete’s strengths, weaknesses, and progress. Finding ways to measure your child’s growth in  reading stamina is motivating and rewarding for both of you.

Quick Tip: If you’re not sure what kind of books to use for building reading stamina, check with your child’s teacher for his/her reading level and great book recommendations. Here is also a quick way to find your child’s reading level:

Most experts recommend tracking the number of minutes of independent reading per day. Though 10-15 minutes of reading at a time is considered a good start for most elementary-aged readers, remember that every child is different. You may want to start off with 5 minutes, or even focus on tracking the number of words or sentences your child reads independently first.

Tracking time spent reading also takes some of the pressure of reading with accuracy off your child. It shifts the focus from the results to the effort, so keep tracking consistent. You and your child will see measurable progress–and can celebrate his/her accomplishments together!

Building Reading Stamina Doesn’t Mean Reading Alone

Just because we want readers to be able to read uninterrupted for extended periods of time, it doesn’t mean the best way to build stamina is to sit a child somewhere alone with a book and no other support. Just like reaching almost any other goal, children do best when reading is a collaborative act.

For example, an early reader might still mostly enjoy being read to, but can be in charge of reading the first word of every sentence, or the sight words like “the,” “is,” and “has” whenever they appear in the text. As children progress in their reading, you can try trading off reading sentences or paragraphs.

Studies even show that just reading your own book alongside your child encourages increased reading stamina. It may seem too simple–and good–to be true, but having a good reading role model who can offer help when needed creates a safe, supportive reading environment.

Of course, every child is different–some kids might prefer having their space when it’s reading time–but when reading doesn’t feel easy or fun, having moral support is critical to increasing reading skills and stamina.

Checking In and Questions Are a Must

Another common misconception about reading stamina is that, if you make a child read long enough, often enough, stamina will just naturally happen. That’s sort of like assuming someone who’s never run more than a mile can figure out how to train himself to run a marathon: pretty unrealistic. 

Numerous schools have already revamped their silent reading programs in recent years so students read texts silently first and then re-read with teacher interaction. These changes have helped students make gains not only in their reading stamina, but their reading comprehension and test scores.

To give you an idea of what checking in with your reader looks like, here’s how the PRIDE Reading Program incorporates building reading stamina into every lesson: we create pauses to check for comprehension, discuss what a student has read, and allow for re-reading.

When reading a story in the PRIDE Reading Program, a Reading Specialist has the student read one paragraph silently, then asks questions to guide in reflection, connection, and prediction before the student moves on to the next paragraph. Once the student has read the whole story silently, he or she goes back and reads it to the Reading Specialist aloud.

Does it take longer than just reading the story all at once? Yes. 

Does it require much more involvement than just having a student read a story and answer comprehension questions? Naturally.

But by going back and forth between silent reading, reading aloud, and discussion, a PRIDE student is not only less likely to burn out on reading in the moment, but is building additional skills that enable good reading stamina.

What Else Can You Do?

There are numerous factors that go into a young reader’s stamina, but having strategic support from parents is extremely effective. It helps students clock in the hours it takes to become a strong reader, and gives them the environment and tools to stay motivated and persist through challenges and frustrations.

Interested in providing more strategic support in your child’s reading growth and stamina? Wish you had more guidance in how to help your child really master and enjoy reading? Be sure to check out the PRIDE Reading Program.

The PRIDE Reading Program is an Orton-Gillingham curriculum that is used by teachers, tutors, and homeschooling parents worldwide with great success.

PRIDE Reading Program


Karina Richland, M.A., is the author of the PRIDE Reading Program, a multisensory Orton-Gillingham reading, writing and comprehension curriculum that is available worldwide for parents, tutors, teachers and homeschoolers of struggling readers. Karina has an extensive background in working with students of all ages and various learning modalities. She has spent many years researching learning differences and differentiated teaching practices. You can reach her by email at info@pridereadingprogram.com or visit the website at www.pridereadingprogram.com