26.2 Reader

Imagine the frustration of starting a book you really want to read and then not being able to finish it. Some children begin reading a book and will abandon it before they get to the words “The End.” Finishing a book is similar to finishing a marathon. Both take endurance to complete.

In order to finish a marathon, an individual needs to be able to withstand the challenge of 26.2 miles of terrain. There are mile markers along the way to indicate location of the race. Readers can use book chapters in a similar fashion. 

At the finish line, marathoners often feel a sense of accomplishment. They may receive artifacts, like a medal, indicating they just completed a marathon. Additionally, they may see the happy faces of friends and/or family who have been cheering them on. It is not uncommon for marathoners to talk about their next running challenge or goal at the end of a race.

Dharma would like to run a reading marathon and finish a good book, but there are obstacles in her way.

Dharma’s Story: As a fourth grader, Dharma is reading at grade level. She has been reading middle grade chapter books for over a year. Dharma checks out Gorillas in the Mist by Dian Fossey on her weekly visit to the library. It is a 400-page book. Dharma gets frustrated and gives up reading the book after the third page. Here are some ideas to guide a young reader, like Dharma, who selects a challenging book.

#1 Conference- Sit down and have a one-on-one conversation with the reader and discover why they want to read the challenging text. Maybe it is the genre or main character that has sparked their interest. With your help, they can be guided to a similar text that is within their reading ability.

After conferencing with Dharma, I found out that she really wanted to read Gorillas in the Mist after a visit to the zoo. She was looking for a fictional text about gorillas. We talked about some other books that she might also like. She decided to read Good Morning, Gorillas by Mary Pope Osborne. This middle grade chapter book was a good match for Dharma. She enjoyed reading and finishing the book. Dharma also started reading more Magic Tree House books by this author.

#2 Sharing- If a reader is able to read with fluency but lacks the stamina to finish the book alone, they could share the reading experience with a partner. Dharma could pair up with another reader. She could share her book by reading a page, and then her partner could read a page. This format could be used until the dyad finishes reading the book together. 

Another way to share the book is have the teacher or adult read the book aloud. Every day after lunch recess, my 5th/6th grade teacher Mr. Cecarelli would read a J.R. Tolkien book to my class for a half hour. It was a calming way for us to transition from playground to classroom by listening to a book that was interesting but probably too challenging for elementary school students to read independently.

#3 Activities- Incorporate authentic activities related to the text. Dharma could explore her interest in gorillas by reading magazines about animals, watching movie(s), singing songs, dance, art, reading board books (e.g., Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann) about gorillas to her baby brother, and more. A book club with other readers could introduce a social aspect of reading. 

Part of the joy of reading is finishing a good book. Guide, coach, cheer, and support your child to becoming a 26.2 reader. Bumper stickers forthcoming….