As soon as Spring Break is over, parents start calling for summer reading camps or programs. It's important to choose carefully. What will be the most effective training in a short amount of time for a struggling or a reluctant reader? If the child hasn't caught on already to the best teaching practices of well-meaning teachers, does this young one need more of the SAME? How to improve this picture?
Some struggling readers have undiagnosed auditory processing problems. That is, the hearing may be perfect but the brain isn't getting a good message from the neural pathways of the inner ear. This problem must be addressed well in order for reading skills and social confidence to develop. Yes, auditory processing has everything to do with learning to read well and with developing self-confidence!
Other struggling readers have a right-brain approach to a left-brain activity. That is, they look at each separate word as an object to be memorized, as we would look at a lizard or a sandwich. We don't scan those from left to right - one glance and we recognize the object. But with words and sentences, getting the information necessitates automatically scanning rapidly from left to right and knowing the sound codes of our language. It's about the SOUNDS. We can't just tell a child how to do this; it must be explicitly taught and habits trained.
When I teach reading, the mother or dad is always at the table with us. I teach the parents how to reinforce the new knowledge and practices at home, so the time and effort spent with Miss Ann at Austin Learning solutions is very effective.
If you even think your child is beginning to struggle, get the jump on that before a negative attitude toward reading sets in. Two of my current students (1st and 2nd graders) couldn't read "Fat cat sat," last semester, and neither could sit still to pay attention for a lesson. Both children can sit and focus for their lessons now and have made fast reading progress. They are enjoying reading, and their families are very happy with the results. (More about the sitting and focusing successes in the next blog!)
This is so interesting! A graphic designer at the University of Twente in the Netherlands has designed a special font to make reading easier for dyslexic children and adults. Read the article here.
You can see examples of dyslexie and download the font (free of charge for home use) here: dyslexiefont.com
This morning I found this in my inbox:
"Hi Ann!!! Exciting news!!! After a couple of days in the educational doldrums, R. has popped up this morning with better attention and has grappled with hard concepts with comparative ease! She even made a clever deduction about how to find the area of a cylinder! We've studied how to find the area of a circle, and the area of a right solid, and she must have put that info together and deduced how to find the area of a cylinder! Blew me away! That's not the kind of "link" she usually gets on her own!!!!!!!!"
This is for a girl who has attention and reasoning issues and has been using an Integrated Listening Systems' Focus program for a few months. Her progress has been consistent, and I'm always delighted to see this type of response, as the changes usually show up more subtly.
Yesterday I attended another sound therapy seminar, always adding to my understanding of the changes this therapy can produce in our brains and our behaviors. Sound frequency zones, applied through bone conducted sound, can have profound effects on auditory processing, and therefore on reading and comprehension, on focus and attention and on executive function skills. Balance and coordination and memory are also positively affected, so this can be a very helpful program for aging brains. It has sure helped me! Going to put my headphones on now...
Last week I read a health column in The Statesman that I thought might be helpful. Much of it is quoted here. (italicized comments are my own.)
“An Ohio State University study looked at more than 11,000 kids from fifth to eighth grades and found that the more fast foods the fifth graders ate, the lower their test scores in reading/literacy, mathematics and science three years later. (And this is when they are supposed to gain a lot.)
Eating fast food three or more times a week was associated with a whopping 20% smaller gain in test scores!
What is it about fast food that dumbs down kids? Research shows that diets high in fat and sugar have an immediate negative impact on memory building and learning.
That one-two punch KOs neurotransmitters that the brain needs to think and form memories! Plus, nutritionally deprived fast foods lack iron and other nutrients that build brain strength, while trans fats used to fry foods flat out dull your brain power.”
-- Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Michael Roizen, Austin American Statesman, 1/21/15, p.D12
If you explain these facts to your kids, the homemade, high-protein sandwich packed with fruit and a bottle of water may sound better!
In seventeen years of serving private students, I've seen cursive handwriting go away. Most of my students use a form of slow, immature printing no matter what age they are. Does it matter? Recently a friend sent me a New York Times article, "What's Lost as Handwriting Fades?", which poses that very question.
Common Core curriculum provides for the training of handwriting in the first two grades, but dispenses with it in favor of keyboarding after that. However, according to the NYT article, children learn to read faster when they are being trained in handwriting. Good handwriting skills also positively affect working memory and enable a student to produce more words and ideas faster when given a writing assignment.
For a long time, I've admired the work of Jeannette Farmer, one of a few U.S handwriting specialists and an educator of educators. Ms. Farmer who has spent many years studying brain research, holds that handwriting plays a critical positive role in the education process, and the absence of handwriting training causes a profoundly negative result in the quality of our students’ educations.
My point in this post is: Parents, I urge you to get your child the training he/she needs to develop good handwriting skills. Summer handwriting camps abound, and the home practice must continue. Brain growth and development for the education years is now.