Wednesday, January 2, 2013

#149 Techniques for Increasing Comprehension and/or Desire to Read

     I had planned to discuss reading comprehension in this post, but when I received a parent's comment concerning the need to increase their child's desire to read, I decided to combine the two subjects. 

     They are are often closely related, but unfortunately, even when young readers have the skills required to comprehend, they may not be using them, and therefore, find no joy in reading books.

     Reading Level is not always the best indicator of success or lack of it.  When J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books came out, I observed children plowing through books far above their tested reading abilities.  Thank you, Ms. Rowling.  

     On the other hand, I read A. A. Milne' Winnie the Pooh for the first time in college when some of my friends made fun of my lack of cultural awareness.  I still loved my reading experience, and I'm glad I didn't miss it.

     In the 1970's at Harvard, Howard Gardner began to publish his research on the subject of multiple types of intelligences. He originally identified seven of them; visual-spatial, body-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, and logical-mathematical.  

     A child who is strongly intelligent in linguistics, for example, might love books, but one who is visually-spatially intelligent prefers illustrations, drawing, or arcade type games.  (Gardner's work is summarized nicely on the following web site: )

     Learning styles are related to these strengths, and it is important to offer appropriate support if young readers are to choose to read books just because they like to.

     Comprehension might be increased with auditory input.  Reading aloud, alone or with a partner can help.  Some readers are auditory learners and need to add this sensory tool.  Encourage them to try mumble reading. (Don't we, as mature readers sometimes have to resort to reading difficult instruction aloud in order to understand them?)

     Attention to detail can be increased by providing a drawing pad and pencils.  Drawing characters, settings, maps, and floor plans often taps into spatial abilities, and helps readers learn to visualize the "word pictures" they are reading.

     Try selecting books in a child's high interest areas.  Animals lovers might like reading The Trouble with Tuck by Theodore Taylor.  (When Helen faces a difficult decision about her blind golden lab, she comes up with an amazing solution.)  Sports lovers will find a wealth of stories--both fiction and biographies.  (Matt Christopher's books fill one or two shelves in every school library, and he writes for girls as well as boys.)

     Another factor might involve the reader's need to multi-task.  Young readers who are especially bright sometimes lose interest in reading because is too "single minded" for them. They find the process boring. 

     I have provided a little "treasure hunt" at the back of my middle-grade eBook, White Rabbit Time (Agent C Series) by Lynda.  It offers readers a list of elements common to both my story and Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.  Some readers have the ability to keep a list like that in the "back pocket" of their brain as they read a story. Oh, those busy, busy brains some children have!

     Some developing readers complain that reading a book "takes too long".  Any librarian will tell you that some children choose books by the width of their spines.  Actually, this isn't a problem if the thinner books are still good literature.

     A sample of wonderful "thin" books is provided below:

     Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
     100 Dresses by Eleanor Estes
     Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
     The Big Wave by Pearl S. Buck
     The Twits by Roald Dahl
     The Great Hoboken Chicken Emergency by Daniel Pinkwater.

     I have also been guilty of tearing apart a paperback to offer it as an old-fashioned serialized story--one chapter at a time. I once had chapters secretly delivered and hidden in various places around my classroom.(Hoboken Chicken, in the list above was a big success this way!)

     Reluctant readers often need more support, especially in the first chapter or two, because books tend to have more description and less action just when their readers are trying to get interested.   

     Maps can help with establishing settings. Theodore Taylor's Teetoncey: Stranger from the Sea always makes me want to visit the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  This book is also a trilogy, and there is nothing like a dangling thread at the end of a book to encourage reading the next one in the series! 

     Mystery books also tend to pull the readers along.

     Some books need to have historical foundations established. Ellen Klages' The Green Glass Sea and its sequel White Sands, Red Menace about the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, New Mexico are examples of these. They offer fascinating stories told from the perspective of the children who lived on the site with their families.

     Sensitive children will love reading about the courage 
of August Pullman in R. J. Palacio's wonderful book entitled Wonder. Born with a facial deformity, August was  home-schooled until he entered fifth grade. 

     I hope you will find some of this information helpful.

     Don't hesitate to ask your children's teachers to share their thoughts about their learning styles.

     Visit with the school librarian.  He/she will probably have more book lists to offer, and prowl through a book store or two.  I think the best ones have old, used books-- sometimes those that are out of print and unavailable anywhere else. 

     In the mean time, please keep reading.





1 comment:

  1. Thanks for including these different strategies and book recommendations. I think that anything that leads students to read for pleasure instead of it being a chore is worth doing. Reminding us of Dr. Gardner's styles can steers us teachers in the right direction.


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