3 TIPS TO GET RELUCTANT READERS TO READ FOR FUN

How to we get students to read books for enjoyment? Three tips that worked for me as a teacher may be helpful for you as a parent or teacher.

#1      Find a series that the student will enjoy. No one spends free time doing something that is not interesting or entertaining. Books face strong competition from the Internet and Social Media. But I was surprised to learn from a woman who works in the children and teens section of Chapters that their biggest increase in sales has been in the teen section. She says it is because there are so many excellent new novels being written in the genre of fantasy, dragons and vampires, the favorite themes of movies for teens.

A good novel is like a soap opera; you can’t wait to find out how it all turns out. The book becomes a constant companion until it is finished. This is why I advise starting young people on the first book of a series. They will want to find out ‘What Next?’ and get hooked on reading the next book. So, begin by taking the student to a good bookstore or to the library where a knowledgeable staff member will help you to find just the right series.

#2      Read the first chapter aloud to your reluctant reader and discuss it. The first chapter sets up the characters and themes of the book and makes the reader curious to find out more. Familiarity with the setting makes reading faster and more enjoyable. It would be even more helpful to read the whole book yourself so that you can discuss it together. You will love the dialogue that will emerge as you view the characters and events through each others eyes.

A good novel allows us to step inside other minds and understand the world from different points of view.  I shared Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut with my grandson, Sean, when he was in grade twelve. It is one of my most cherished memories. This was the first time we had important and interesting discussions around such topics as politics, societal issues, religion and death.

Another good practice is to talk to your family or students about the books you are reading. It is good modelling and helps to interest them in expanding their reading to new genres.

#3      Make sure that the student is able to read well and fairly quickly.  Otherwise, he or she will be unable or unwilling to put in the effort to read a whole book. I meet adults who read so slowly that they never attempt a novel. How sad! The Making Sense Approach to Reading increases speed and comprehension for all readers.   Many parents who have taken the Simply Read Course  to help other children to improve their reading report that their own reading improves as they too begin to use the techniques they have learned.

ARE YOU AS SMART AS A FIFTH GRADER? Take this test to find out . . .

This letter is written with words that would be at a suitable level for a fifth grade reading test. Do you think you could answer questions based on it?

Dear Frances,

I was cooking and just doin’ it to it, hoping to find a flop box or a bean house bull. As I was checking my eyeballs for pinholes, I saw a pigeon. I started to back em up but it was too late. I had to accept the invitation. If I have just paid more attention to the brown bag! We have to avoid taking pictures in the future. I hope you keep the whites on your nose and the reds on your tail.

Have fun, Vera

The dictionary definition of reading is ‘making sense’. Neither you, nor any fifth grader, could ‘read’ this passage even though you could easily figure out all the words. Only a truck driver has the experience to make sense of this passage.

Even the best readers in the world are illiterate, unable to read, any material to which they cannot bring some background of experience.

I will translate the passage for you as a trucker would read it.

Dear Frances,

I was driving along at full speed hoping to find a motel or truck stop. I was sleepy when I saw someone stopped for speeding. I started to slow down but it was too late. I had to accept the ticket. If I had just paid more attention to the unmanned police car! I hope you stay on the road, drive carefully and have a good trip.

Have fun, Vera

Now you can read (make sense of) this passage because I have provided the insight into the meaning behind the language  that you need for understanding.

I hope you will choose to learn how to  use The Making Sense Approach to Reading to become an effective coach to all those struggling readers you meet in life who need to read more quickly and with greater understanding.

You can order the Simply Read! course by visiting www.readingwings.com

SEVEN – THE MAGIC AGE

“It lies within us as adults either to turn newborns into monsters by the way we treat them or to let them grow up into feeling – and therefore responsible – human beings.

Alice Miller in Prisoners of Childhood

Frey, the son of Njord the god of the sea, is a very famous god. Frey was given a present when he got his first new tooth at about seven years of age. The dwarfs built him Skilbladner, a ship so big it could carry all the gods and so small that it could be folded and put into Frey’s pocket. This ship is symbolic of the power of words and knowledge. By the time children are seven they have a huge amount of knowledge about life and living.

The Norse believed that children are still playing in the water until they are seven. By then they have developed to a place where they can begin to work with words, to play with concepts, and put them together to understand things. They believed that letters are nothing in themselves but have value only when we have the ability to put them together to make meaning.

They also believed that children need to develop their resonators. Just as the bottom of a musical instrument is created to resonate the sound and to make the music strong, children need to have time to develop the ability to absorb, reflect and magnify the knowledge they receive.  When we push children before they have developed their resonators, Norse mythology says they may become angry trolls. Eventually they want to kill the wise man because they don’t understand his wisdom.

We have people in the world who are trolls; uninformed and angry in varying degrees; living shallow, simple lives uncluttered by big ideas.

A country can choose to raise wise men or trolls depending on how they treat their pre- seven-year-old children. If we don’t allow children time to develop resonance, early education can create hostility and anger. With the new emphasis on accountability and academics in kindergarten, we run the risk of turning some children into trolls.

The resonators are prepared through play.   Wise counsel is given in the document            A Child’s Education in Islam,  by Inam Jaafer Assadig:

“Leave your child to play for seven years.”

“Children are independent until seven years.”

“Children are comfortable until seven years.”

 ”Participation of the parent with the child while playing is very necessary. The best way to participate is to converse with the child in ways he understands, i.e.  behave as if you are a kid.”

Nordic countries still believe this.  I back-packed through Sweden and Finland, visiting  schools along the way. I learned that they don’t start formal teaching of reading or math until children are seven. Parents may choose to send their children to school at six, where a rich environment expands their experience and builds inter-personal skills, but it isn’t required. They have top scores on international  tests.

Of course, many children begin to read before seven, which is great. The others will catch up quickly when they bring a lot of experience to their reading. The push to getting children into school earlier is admirable only if educators refrain from giving grades and use play to build core strengths, confidence, and resonance until they are seven. There are enough years left after that to work on formal academics.

H. T. Epstein in Education and the Brain says,

Children exposed to intellectual pressures and inputs for which they have no proper receptive circuitry may learn to reject such inputs; rejection might even result in an inability to take in such inputs later when the circuitry has developed.”

A quote from a 1907 version of Friedrich Froebel’s book, The Education of Man, is as true as it was when he wrote it in 1826.

“We grant space and time to young plants and animals because we know that, in accordance with the laws that live in them, they will develop properly and grow well. Young animals and plants are given rest, and arbitrary interference with their growth is avoided, because it is known that the opposite practice would disturb their pure unfolding and sound development; but, the young human being is looked upon as a piece of wax or a lump of clay which man can mold into what he pleases.”

Froebel  observed that children were ready to read when they got their first tooth – about seven years old. My friend Hanne Seidel, one of the best grade one teachers I am privileged to know, once told me she watched her grade ones and found that Froebel was right. If they were not turned off by too much pressure to learn to read before then, they read easily after they got their first new tooth.

We would do well to listen to Froebel, Hanne, the story of Frey, the wisdom of Islam, and Nordic educators in our treatment of young children.

HOW A SKUNK CHANGED NICK’S LIFE

MATT READING WITH HIS BROTHERNICK’S BROTHER, MATT, COACHES HIM

It all started when a skunk set up house under my step. He didn’t bother me but I was worried that he might not like one of my visitors. Japco, a local pest control company trapped him and released him into the woods.

In conversation with Tina  from Japco, I learned that she had an autistic 14-year-old boy who was totally discouraged about his inability to make any progress at school. Tina scheduled a reading consultation with me and the rest is history. Nick responded quickly to The Making Sense Approach and was soon a joyful reader.

Nick was bullied at school and didn’t want to be with other kids. His mother decided it would be best if she home-schooled him for a while. I served as a coach, teaching Tina and giving Nick instructive feedback.

NICK,  & GRANDMOTHER’S BAY

MASKS CREATED DURING NOVEL STUDY

In September, Nick’s writing was at the first grade level and Tina was worried because she couldn’t get him to write very much. Students often don’t want to write because they don’t think they have anything to sayt.  Ms. Kirzinger was part of my workshop on using the novel in novel ways.  She used the approach to study the novel, Touching Spirit Bear, with her grade three and four students at Grandmother’s Bay, a small aboriginal community in northern Saskatchewan. The results were stunning.

These kids have limited access to people in the world beyond their community and Nick was not ready to reach out to others yet either.  So I started Nick and his brother Matt on a study of the same novel. I put them in touch with Grandmother’s Bay students to share what they were learning from the story. It was such a win-win for all of them as they exchanged letters, art work and stories. Nick made each of the students a personalized book mark with a picture of a white bear on it. Nick’s writing blossomed and he began producing pieces of length and substance.

A MIND SET FREE

DIORAMA CREATED WITH RAIN FOREST THEME

Nick is creating work of astounding quality. What a joy it is for me to visit him in his personalized classroom. His fertile mind is overcoming his disability. He has created a huge number and variety of projects such as paintings, sculptures, an Egyptian newspaper, and a detailed model of the rainforest. The masks were created by the boys as part of their study. Nick made the one on the left and Matt the one on the right.
What a gift Nick is! I predict that you will hear more of him as he brings his creative mind to his art work and to helping solve the problems of society.

READING MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE.

You can coach your child. student or another adult to become an effective reader today.  Just order my new online reading course for parents and teachers at www.readingwings.com

READING: ART OR SKILL?

“The mistaken idea is that reading is a skill – learn to crack the code and practice comprehension strategies – may be the single biggest factor holding back reading achievement.”

Prof Daniel Willingham, a researcher at the University of Virginia, made this statement in an article called Language and the Brain in the Washington Post (Sept. 09). It supports what I have been teaching for a long time.

The skill of reading, which can be taught, is learning the sounds and symbols to decode words. But reading goes far beyond that simple skill. The dictionary definition of reading is “making sense”.  A dictionary defines art as, “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination.” That is exactly what has to happen for reading to take place.

Art is usually thought of as painting, sculptures, prints, etc. However, we talk about the art of cooking, the art of sailing, the art of war, the art of seduction, the art of conversation and so on.  Art is a broader term that we use for a quality which many believe is incapable of definition.

Michael Polanyi contends, in his book Personal Knowledge, that,  “An art which cannot be specified in detail cannot be transmitted by prescription since no prescription for it exists. It can be passed on only from a master to an apprentice.”

I consider reading to be an art. Reading is only successful when we are able to understand the message, a process that requires imagination. Comprehension can’t be taught as a skill because it relies on the  knowledge the reader brings to text. This is the absolutely critical factor that a good reader brings to his or her reading. No matter how many words we can figure out we are all illiterate, unable to read, in texts to which we can’t bring an understanding of the concepts behind the words and the subject matter at hand. Decoding, figuring out words,  is not reading.

Reading is artistic improvisation. It is developed from a learned body of knowledge that is uniquely and individually interpreted. An art cannot be learned by memorizing rules, but only by ‘living with’ something or with someone who has mastered the art. It requires permission to make mistakes. It must be light-hearted and enjoyable. Art escapes exact definition. It must be caught with imagination and vision. It involves creating our own meaning.

The Making Sense Approach to Reading is an apprenticeship model. It teaches adults how to become Masters who are able to Apprentice those who are unable to read well.

My online coaching course, Simply Read! uses this model to teach a new way to look at reading. The reading coach learns how to change the focus of the learner to enable him/her to read fluently and with comprehension using stored knowledge and imagination.

Check it out at www.readingwings.com

or email me at vera@readingwings.com for more information.

IS THE STUDENT ALWAYS THE PROBLEM?

Schools rarely say, “We have failed to teach this student properly. We have to find a way to change what we are doing.” The blame is usually on a defect in the child or on parents for neglecting to do the right things. They are quick to send parents to find others for testing and tutoring.

The students I have worked with, and the parents who have taken my course, attest to the fact that there is nothing whatsoever wrong with their children even though they were in serious problems with reading at school.

Children all want to read and to succeed. When they are labelled as deficient, and treated differently than their peers , they are confused and learning sickness can begin. These identified weaknesses become part of their self-talk and I’ve heard many of them say, about the middle of grade one, “I’m dumb. I’m stupid. I hate reading.” None of these are true. They hate themselves for being behind their peers. This builds ditches of despair that can be difficult to overcome. Many high school drop-outs will tell you that their slide began in the early grades!

I have consulted to the parents of three seven-year-olds in the last couple of months. As is usually the problem, they were all ‘hooked on phonics’. In every case these students, who were sounding out every letter when they came to see me, were reading without sounding out within ten minutes when I read with them to demonstrate to their parents how to practice properly. It was magical to watch the transformation in their faces and bodies when they realized that they could read.

Amara’s parents had already contacted a psychologist to do $5,000 worth of testing. Instead, in two hours their daughter was confidently reading with a minimal amount of help. She laughed and skipped around the room. She couldn’t stop hugging me.

Jen, a young mom, recently used Simply Read! my online reading course to quickly turn her six-year-old son who is in French Immersion into a reader in both French and English. Within two weeks he was reading French so well that he volunteered to read out loud in class! She told me that The Making Sense Approach is more valuable for French than English since so many of the letters in French are silent.

Almost everyone, of every age, can read if they learn how to overcome the barriers that too much teaching has put in their minds.

CAN TESTING AND GRADING HARM STRUGGLING READERS?

“Weighing sheep often doesn’t make them fatter.
It just takes time from grazing.”

My biggest despair as a teacher was to have coddled a student who was especially discouraged and far behind to the point where he/she was putting forth effort and taking steps to success. Then it was report card time and I had to grade them against their peers. They were still behind so I had to give a grade that made them feel badly because they had been working hard and making progress.

I will always remember the teacher who came up to me with tears in her eyes after one of my workshops. She taught in an exceptionally high needs school and her school board had just issued a new report card that was very detailed in labeling students. She said, ”How can I give grades to my grade one students in October when I have hardly had time to get to know them and they need so much help before I start judging them.” Young children are just doing their best to make sense of school and don’t know how to get grades.

I remember one woman who was taking her nephew home in October of grade one. He was a boy who came to grade one having little background in being read to. He said, ”I can hardly wait to see how many 1’s I got.” She said the possibility of him having any 1’s was not going to happen. Too bad that his bubble burst so quickly. What value was a served by giving him a grade?

What do children compare to when they think of themselves as readers? Not their score on a test but to how the best reader in the class is reading. When they receive extensive testing but still aren’t approaching this level of reading, they become more and more discouraged. They don’t realize all the factors that came together to allow the top reader to read so well or that we don’t all walk and talk at the same age either.

Confidence is one key to achieving reading success. It is a flame that is easy to extinguish and difficult to rekindle. Children should be given no grades or tests until they are able to read and then very rarely. We don’t need tests to know whether they can read or not.
Any teacher or parent, who is worth his or her salt, only has to sit down beside a reader and listen to them read to find out where they are and what help they may need. Tests that give a grade level are only useful for authorities to compare schools. They are great for telling the underachieving reader, who realizes he can only do a few of the questions, that he is a failure. It is just one more nail in his ‘depression coffin’.

I love the policy in Finland and Sweden of not giving grades in any subject until children are ten years old. By then, they understand what grades mean and how to get good marks. They top the world in reading.

FIGHT, FLIGHT, OR . . .

There are two ways to deal with stress, FIGHT or FLIGHT. Students are committed to school, by law, for about eleven years of their life with no opportunity for fight or flight. When they can’t do either, they often lapse into a state of unawareness that results in failure, drop-out and even addiction and suicide.

The Kinark Child & Family Services in a nationwide survey, April, 2008, found that 7 out of 10 Canadian parents are concerned about the future well-being of their children. 49% of students are concerned about school problems and 34% fear disappointing their parents. These are leading causes of depression, stress and anxiety.

The local pharmacist, in my middle class neighborhood, told me that in the last year prescription drugs for depression had increased dramatically for children and adolescents.
It’s time that we consciously realized that our youth get only one chance to be young. We must stop viewing school as preparation for life and treat it like life itself. And all of us value happiness above everything else.

A mother came up to me with tears in her eyes after one of my talks about reading. She told me that her 13 year old daughter had attempted suicide because her inability to read. She felt inferior and shut out from her peers who were enjoying reading.

This letter I received from a parent is representative of many of the comments I hear.
“My son has taken me to the uttermost limits of frustration and I don’t know what to do. My 10 year old has struggled for the last 3 years in school. He hates to read even though we are a family that has always reads to our children. My husband and I have college degrees and literacy is an important part of our lives. He hates homework. It took him 3 hours to do 20 math sums. He has been punished and doesn’t care – grounding, taking away TV, Nintendo, bike, allowance – nothing works.”

What kind of a childhood is this boy having? What kind of relationship within the family is being fostered by this failure of their son to be happy with his school experience? Does he hate to read because, even though he can, it is too slow and painful?

In January/2005 the International Reading Association issued a position statement on adolescent reading:

“Adolescents entering the adult world in the 21st Century will read and write more than any other time in human history. Their ability to read well will be crucial. Early instruction is not enough. Guidance is needed for the increasing demands and complexity of reading material. They need support to learn unfamiliar vocabulary, manage new reading and writing styles, and engage in more complex material.”

As a teacher and consultant, I have always tried to make learning enjoyable and accessible. I believe 95% of children can learn to read if obstacles are not put in their way by too much labeling and teaching. My online course for reading coaches teaches a simple, effective way to remove the obstacles.

HOW A SKUNK CHANGED NICK’S LIFE

Nick’s Rain Forest Collage

It all started when a skunk set up house under my step. He didn’t bother me but I was worried that he might not like one of my visitors. I called Japco, a reputable pest control company, who trapped him and released him into the woods.

In conversation with Tina from Japco, I learned that she had an autistic 14-year-old boy who was totally discouraged about his inability to make any progress at school. Tina scheduled a reading consultation with me and the rest is history. Nick responded quickly to The Making Sense Approach and was soon a joyful reader.

Nick was bullied at school and he did not want to be around other kids. His mother decided it would be best if she home-schooled him for a while. I served as a coach, giving Nick instructive feedback on his work, and teaching Tina, as she directed his learning.

NICK, MATT & GRANDMOTHER’S BAY

Matt & Nick Read Together

In September, Nick’s writing was at the first grade level and Tina was worried because she couldn’t get him to write very much. Students often don’t want to write because they haven’t got anything in their minds they want to write about.

Cheyney Kirzinger and her grade three and four students at Grandmother’s Bay, a small community that is part of the La Ronge Indian Band school system, were studying  Touching Spirit Bear.  Cheyney had been part of a professional day I  presented for teachers at LaRonge which taught an unusual way to use a novel as the center of instruction.  Cheyney was having remarkable results.

So I started Nick, and his brother Matt, on a study of the same novel. I put them in touch with the Grandmother’s Bay students to share what they were learning from the story. It was such a win-win for all of them as they exchanged letters, art work and stories. Nick’s writing blossomed and he began producing pieces of length and substance. He made each child a laminated white bear book mark with their name on it.

A MIND SET FREE

Nick and Matt's Masks

Nick has created work of astounding quality. What a joy it is for me to visit him in his personalized classroom. His fertile mind is overcoming his disability. He has created a huge number and variety of projects such as paintings, sculptures, an Egyptian newspaper, and a detailed model of a rain forest. These masks were created by the boys as part of their Spirit Bear study. Nick made the one on the left and Matt the one on the right.

Someday Nick will use his incredible mind to make innovative contributions to the world.  Reading restores confidence and makes all the difference.

 

15 MINUTES FOR 15 DAYS TO READING SUCCESS

This is the slogan under which we are advertising SIMPLY READ! our online reading course. I think I had better explain it. I am confident that when anyone learns The Making Sense Approach and uses it to practice with learners for 15 MINUTES EVERY DAY FOR 15 DAYS, most will GET IT! I believe this will be the case at least 95% of the time.

The Making Sense Approach to reading changes the readers’ focus. A neuroscientist told me that reading takes place in the frontal cortex of the brain. For this part of the brain to function properly input needs to be stress-free, simple and joyful. These are the conditions set up by The Making Sense Approach and he thought that is why it seems so magical.

Almost without exception, parents tell me the only clue they give to struggling readers is ‘SOUND IT OUT! This often doesn’t work. Sounding out small words is difficult because phonics is too irregular. Sounding out big words often fails because by the time readers get to the middle of the word they forget what they just sounded and they ‘wild guess’ a word and carry on.

The dictionary definition of reading is ‘making sense’. It’s pretty hard to make sense by guessing words. Reading becomes confusing and comprehension almost impossible. The result is that poor readers don’t read any more than they have to and so lack the practice necessary to improve. There is no pleasure in reading and JOY is one of the critical factors the frontal cortex needs to read well.

The failure to read quickly enough to find pleasure applies to readers of all ages. Many adults tell me they are slow readers and don’t enjoy reading This is because they are unable to go beyond phonics to focus on ideas rather than words. Just because you get older doesn’t mean that you make the critical switch from phonics to making sense Some parents I coach told me that they were slow readers but, as they read in this new way with their child, their own reading improved dramatically and they now enjoy reading.

Poor readers need coaches who sit beside them and force them to read quickly, giving minimal attention to the mechanics of reading so they can re-focus their brains. Everyone is taught phonics at school and those with identified problems get an extra dose. So when they are shown how to shift focus, the ability to read fluently and with comprehension happens quickly. Many coaches use the training they receive in the SIMPLY READ! course to turn ineffective readers around in as little as two or three sessions.

If you decide to order the course, please let me know how quickly you are able to put your reader on the path to reading success.