Read often. Mostly silently. Focus on knowledge.

"Read often. Mostly silently. Focus on knowledge."

This is researcher and reading expert Freddy Hiebert's mantra in this article she released through her TextProject group recently. In it she makes the case for a renewed focus on helping children build "reading stamina," and that a person's ability to read silently and proficiently for long stretches of time is the key threshold for becoming a successful reader.

Deliberate practice makes all the difference, she argues.

"For any given activity, whether it is highly demanding (e.g. performing brain surgery or playing a Rachmaninoff piano concerto) or prosaic (e.g. riding a bike or using a computer keyboard), it is absurd to think that we can become proficient without participating extensively in the activity."

The problem, she says, is stamina has been pushed aside with NCLB's emphasis on "phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension" and the Common Core's focus on close reading of complex texts.

"Instruction about critical reading strategies and content is important, but instruction does not necessarily ensure that students have the opportunities they need to become proficient independent readers. For this to happen, students also need to have an abundance of ... opportunities to read."

Teachers can do a lot to help students build silent reading stamina, and the article includes seven actions she recommends taking.

When there's only so much time in the school day, how do you help students build stamina?

Photo: leecullivan

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In my experience, science and Social Studies teachers in public schools -- especially Title I schools -- have almost completely abandoned their text books because so many students read below grade level. Consequently, the students spend even less time reading. Consequently, their reading does not improve . . . It's a never-ending cycle.