I used to be able to sit with my nose buried in a book for hours on end. These days, I can hardly go for 15 minutes without becoming interrupted or distracted. I blame the internet. I get my news in 75 word bytes, often popping up on my screen uninvited. My lightweight laptop goes just about everywhere with me and my tablet and smart phone are always close at hand.
And I’m not alone! I’m told that the readers will only tolerate about half as many words on a web page as they did when the internet was first introduced. Tweets are limited to 140 characters so they can be consumed easily on any device, but a recent report by Buddy Media found that Tweets under 100 characters are most likely to engage readers. What about the ubiquitous Facebook? One researcher found that the 40-character post (that’s not 40 characters, not 40 words) received 86% higher engagement than longer posts. Read more in this interesting article (with a surprisingly unwieldy title): “The Ideal Length of Everything Online, Backed by Research.”
The question for us teachers is: In this world of 100 character news bytes, how do we get students to build the stamina to read a complete novel from beginning to end? What about students who are unable (or unwilling) to read novels that should be at their tested independent reading level?
Without going into the foibles and flaws of readability, it’s not unreasonable that some readers who score at a certain level on a one-page oral reading record might be flummoxed by 70 or 100 of those pages bound together in a book. But there are ways that teachers can help. Click here to read some tips for helping students build reading stamina.