Friday, April 11, 2014

Making Sure Your Kids WANT to Read - Addendum

Below, my brother brings up a good point that I'd like to address in a quick follow-up.

It is in fact true that while I became an avid, life-long reader, Matt did not -- but Matt, I think, is a special exception. Because he is legally blind, he had to deal with a substantial organic roadblock that made reading less enjoyable. Why should he have embraced reading given the likelihood for eyestrain headaches? If he had had convenient access to large-print editions - or the technology to enlarge standard print - he might've become a habitual reader. But in the 80's, you had to send away to the state organization for the blind and visually impaired for those materials. And while Matt did have magnification machines provided by the school as demanded by his IEP, they were, in my recollection, extremely cumbersome.

The Spike S. Routine for Raising Readers, I am confident, will work with children who are physiologically average (and by the way, other education writers have advanced similar ideas, so Dad is an illustrative example, not a mere anecdote). But for those who, like Matt, have disabilities that make the process of reading difficult, teachers and parents will need to do more. You may, for example, have to enroll a child in a special program - like, for example, one that uses Orton-Gillingham - to overcome dyslexia or sensory processing deficits. You also need to make sure you provide plenty of reading materials that are accessible to the disabled child and written in his correct zone of proximal development (i.e., written at or slightly above the child's current reading level). Fortunately, given recent technological developments, that's a lot easier to do. On tablet readers, you can adjust the font size, which is a great boon for people with poor eyesight or visual processing disorders. Also, I understand some adult dyslexics are working to invent fonts that they find easier to read.

And even with typical children, we need to be on the look-out for instructional practices that hamper proficient reading and may require intervention to correct. Again, I have a number of students who apparently never learned phonics, which no doubt makes reading much more difficult and contributes to their overall reluctance to pick up a book. There are also misguided teachers out there who use reading as a punishment, an approach that has a 100% success rate in discouraging the habit. And then there are the reading/literature textbooks many schools select, which, quite frankly, are usually stupid and dull as dirt. (Ugh, don't even get me started. That topic requires another post -- probably one entitled "Textbook HATE.")

So yes -- Matt is right. In some cases, a more aggressive approach might be needed. But even then, the principles outlined in the previous post are still relevant.     

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