In this technology-driven world, children quickly become used to the instant gratification afforded by video games and television. According to a 2015 study from Microsoft Corp., people generally lose concentration after eight seconds, a second less than the proverbial non-focused goldfish. How does this affect Johnny and Jane and their apparent disdain for reading?
Reading at all levels involves a concentrated focus, especially for young readers learning to decode the words. If they are unable to sustain the focus long enough to figure out the words, young children will quickly give up and want to move on to a more fulfilling activity.
What, then, to do with struggling readers, especially now that school is over and vacation is here?
- Let your child pick out books or magazines that interest him. Every book does not need to be school reading material; if he enjoys elephants, let him pick out some fiction or easy non-fiction books about elephants. Take turns reading sentences or paragraphs, or, in especially difficult books, point out sight words he should know and let him jump in when those pop up.
- Let her check out books or magazines on a level below her actual reading level. She will experience more success in the reading and it will encourage her to keep going and to move on to more challenging books.
- Read articles of interest to your child. Stop every paragraph or so and ask comprehension questions from the article. Ask “what if” or “what might happen differently if…” questions to keep him focused and interested. You can also answer the question with a silly or unreasonable response and see how your child responds to the unlikeliness of your answer.
What about parents trying to help their child get a jump on reading for the next year during summer break?
- Parents can find free audio versions of many novels students read online. The students should follow along with the book while listening, but the different voices online can help hold the student’s attention. Again, parents can help by asking open-ended questions about what the students have read/heard to help focus the listening. “What was the most surprising event in chapter 4?,” or “What did this character do in chapter 6 that seemed out of character?,” or “How would you have responded if this happened to you?”
- My husband and I have found that filling pockets of “wait time” with our grandsons is a great way to incorporate bits of reading during our “dates.” We’ll make menu-reading into a game or use kids’ meal papers as jumping off points to make up stories they have to read as we write down each line. Writing down rhymes and silly words can make the wait time go more quickly and seem more of a game than “work.” We also let them read to us and then ask us questions as we go along.
- Shortly before school starts, up the ante. Give your child a more difficult book or article to read, making sure the topic interests her. Ask detailed questions, so she cannot get by with skimming the information, bouncing around, or taking time to get distracted. She should see you reading books and magazines so the idea of reading is a “given” in your family.
- Finally, limit screen time. Your child’s imagination will soar and her reading ability will profit from the time away from electronics.
Carol Ashworth serves as 6th Grade Language Arts Teacher.