SEEING WHAT WE READ
My goal is to help every parent and teacher who reads this to explore a strategy I used to help hundreds of underachieving students improve their comprehension skills and learn to enjoy reading without painful drills and a cycle of failure. Give it a try. It worked for me.
Reading requires us to use our comprehension skills and add our imagination to fill in the gaps that cannot be supplied by the author. A movie lets the director and cast do most of the work for us. Reading requires us to become active partners and visualize not only what the author is supplying, but also what he isn’t. You can be ‘lazy’ while watching television or a movie, but you must be actively involved to fully understand what you are reading.
It is this active role which may explain why to the ‘good’ reader the book tends to be better than a movie. But how can this help us with the under-achieving reader?
THE ACHIEVER VS UNDERACHIEVER READER
I always loved reading because I was successful at filling in the gaps that can’t be completely ‘fed’ to us by an author. As an author myself, I count on the reader’s imagination to bring my characters, locale and plot elements to life. In a movie, or television program, we sit and basically accept what we are given, although we may use what we are ‘fed’ to anticipate the ending, as in guessing the end to a mystery. We don’t need to visualize much because it is all on the screen for us.
In observing my struggling students, I became convinced that what may define the difference between a ‘good reader’ and a ‘bad’ one (I hate that term but use it for convenience) is that the ‘good reader’ can fill in these gaps because they actually ‘see’ what they are reading. This ability to ‘see’ what we read is visualization.
CAN VISUALIZATION BE TAUGHT?
It is the missing ‘sense’ I believe every child can learn to use to become a successful reader. It is like a vitamin V for reading and all areas of learning. It was this belief that children who can ‘see’ what they are reading will achieve success, and like reading, that changed my entire approach to teaching and which if you teach your children may help them succeed without you spending one extra dime for expensive teaching materials.
What is strange to me is that we seem to recognize instinctively the importance of visualization in teaching subjects like math and science. Experiments in science, using pizza slices in teaching fractions, are just two examples of how we try to involve student visualization, and even physical learning abilities. We also ask them to ‘see’ word problems. In some cases, we ask them to ‘draw’ the problem before solving it.
I think we assume every child is born with the ability to ‘see’ what they are reading, but some of our behaviors may actually work against this important skill.
I can’t remember any teacher guide or work book page that dealt specifically with teaching a child to ‘see’ what they read. Visualization isn’t the focus of reading skillbooks (workbooks) or texts, and may not only be the sense we often neglect, but sometimes inadvertently extinguish in our well-intentioned efforts to teach our children to read quickly and complete tasks on time. Our kids are in such a rush to finish their ‘work’, and we value speed so highly, that only those with the ‘gift’ already use it automatically.
VISUALIZATION: THE NEGLECTED SIXTH SENSE
To put it simply, if I can teach every child to visualize, ‘see’, what he/she is reading, shouldn’t comprehension increase?
If a child can’t ‘see’ – let’s call it “V”- if a child can’t ‘V’ what they are reading, how can they understand it and enjoy it? In more practical terms, how can they pass comprehension tests?
My hypothesis became: teach a child to ‘V’ and comprehension should soar. That simple objective was the lightning bolt that changed my methods of teaching forever.