Too Short Reading Attention Span

Question: My sixth-grader simply can't read for a very long time. He is easily distracted by his brothers and sisters or just gets bored with what he is reading. I am very worried that he is going to have a big problem if this continues. What will he do in high school and college when reading assignments will be so much longer? Can you suggest any ways to help him focus longer on his reading? -- Needs Help

Answer: Michael Phelps practiced and practiced to become such a great swimmer. All that practice built up his stamina so he could win race after race at the Olympics. In the same way, students can build up their reading stamina. The more quality reading practice they log, the more their reading stamina will improve. Of course, this will not be true if the student has a vision problem or a severe learning disorder that is affecting his or her reading.

Have your son follow these steps to improve his reading stamina through practice. Having a high degree of reading stamina is a critical reading skill.

  1. A time should be selected for regular reading practice.
  2. A place should be chosen that is away from as many household distractions as possible.
  3. It will help if he can sit in a comfortable chair and close to good lighting.
  4. He should choose books that have subjects that really interest him. And the book should be at a level that he can easily read by himself.
  5. At first he should set a goal of just reading for 10 to 15 minutes. He can use a timer to measure his progress.
  6. As reading for 10 to 15 minutes becomes easy, the time he reads can be increased.
  7. It is essential that your son engage as much as possible with what he is reading and think about what he is reading.
  8. Investigate whether your son has bad reading habits such as vocalizing what is being read or rereading words that have just been read. These habits do interfere with reading stamina. Holding one's fingers over the lips should stop vocalizing, and rereading can be stopped by covering what has just been read with a card.

Younger children do not necessarily have to practice reading alone. They can also listen to others read or read to someone. Older children who can read for longer periods of time will enhance their stamina by taking short breaks every hour.