As a spec. ed teacher,  I’m always looking for ways to make reading easier for my students with dyslexia.  Thanks to twitter, I just came across a post by Jeff Dunn about a free font called Opendyslexic that can be used to help students who have dyslexic reading challenges. Teachers  could use the Opendyslexic font in their handouts  to make reading easier. I’m thinking students could  also change the font of text to Opendyslexic.  This is very exciting. Please let me know if you’ve tried the font and it really does make a difference.

You can get the Opendyslexic font here.

Font can be used on Kindle (without hack) , Android Sony Reader .

TL09 View of School Libraries

TL09 View of School Libraries (Photo credit: Carol VanHook)

Many students  are reluctant readers. I’m not talking about students who are reluctant to read because they have reading disabilities. I’m talking about students who can read but just don’t like reading and try to avoid it whenever possible. There are many reasons students don’t like to read.  For example,

  • some families don’t value reading so students come to school thinking reading isn’t important;
  • some students think reading isn’t cool and discourage their friends from reading; and
  • some people think reading is a waste of time and people should go do something  instead of just sitting and reading.

I want to share an anecdote with you that helped remind me why some kids won’t read.  I can’t even imagine not reading. But, that’s me, and I have to remember that. I had a student in a grade 12 learning strategies class a few semesters ago who didn’t like reading.  I’ll call  him Kyle.  After I had introduced the daily reading activity, Kyle told me he didn’t like to read.  (What else is new, I thought.) He told me he had never read an entire book in the 13 years he’s been in school. Unfortunately, I’ve heard that said before too. Many of my students  are  reluctant readers, but I continue to encourage them to read anyway. I don’t give up because you just never know.

Reluctant readers often have difficulty finding books they would like to read. When Kyle couldn’t find a book  to read in the entire school library, I asked him what kinds of movies did he like watching. He told me, but I can’t remember just now but it doesn’t really matter . My point is  whatever type of movie he liked watching  is the type of book I would have suggest he read.  Suggesting students use the kind of movies they like to watch  to help them choose books they might find interesting to read is a good starting point for kids who can’t find a book. I figure students go to movies all the time so they feel  comfortable with movies , but books and libraries  are  probably a pretty scary for someone who doesn’t read much.  I appreciate that, so I usually help students find a book with the school librarian’s help. She’s a wonderful resource for reluctant readers.

By the end of the semester Kyle had read seven or eight books.  He told me he even read books on the bus.  Wow. I  was immediately impressed (ha!) with the fact that Kyle who was in grade 12 hadn’t finish reading a book before in all the time he was in school and in my class (ha!)  he had read seven books.  I had helped him become an avid reader.    I had made a difference (ha!) .  Kyle  had become an avid reader.  That was great. But Kyle didn’t think it was so great.  Kyle’s girl friend hated the fact he read all the time,  even on the bus. She told him he was turning into a geek and was losing his cool factor. She didn’t want him to be geeky. Personally, I think she was feeling ignored.  She had to compete with books for his attention and didn’t like it one bit. Kyle told me he wouldn’t be reading anymore books.  Seven books were enough. What?  Seven book were enough.  I didn’t know what to say to him. I was stunned.  Reading seven books in a life time was enough? Really! I hoped that wouldn’t be the case. I think he thought that books were for school and since he was done with school because he graduated, he was done with books. How was he able to get through school without reading a book?  He had marvelous coping skills I guess.

I think some students don’t like to read because they don’t get involved with what they are reading.  Let me explain.  When I’m reading something I get involved with the text and will talk to the text and say things such as

  • I don’t get it;
  • I get it now;
  • what does that word mean;
  • I can relate to that ;
  • I can’t read because there’s too much noise in the room;
  • I really like the character; and
  • etc.

When I’m talking to the text, I’m engaging with it and making the reading experience more meaningful to me.  I want my students to be engaged with the text they are reading to make it more meaningful for them. So I decided I would have them complete a reading log where they could talk to the text they were reading.  Reading logs usually include columns for dates and the pages read on that particular day.  My  talking to the text reading log includes columns for dates, for quotations from the text and page number, and for comments about the quotations.   Students had to read in order to make comments. It would be more difficult for them to cheat and  just fill in the date and page numbers they hadn’t actually read.

Students would read their books and while reading would  choose a  sentence or two that spoke to them in some way.  Then they would comment or talk about  how the sentence spoke to them. I told my students that when they were making comments they were really talking to the books. The idea of talking to books got their attention.  They thought I was weird, but that’s OK.  I got their attention.  I modeled what it meant to talk to books.  I told them I also talk to the TV and to movies.   I wanted them to have conversations with their books.   I would  provide sentence stems to help them to start to think about their reading.  I would read their comments  about the text they were reading and made thoughtful comments (I hope)  about their comments. Of course, I would give  students the option of sharing their comments with me and other students or keeping their comments private.  I can only remember one student who wanted his comments to remain private.  I think sharing our comments helped us develop a more positive relationship.  We got to now know another better.  I didn’t get the sense that students were writing what they thought I wanted to hear, but who knows.  At least they were reading and thinking about their reading.  What they wrote had to fit with the sentences they chose.

Oh yes, the students would always have to give a reason why they thought what they did about the sentence or sentences they had chosen. For example, if a students wrote that she could relate to the character, she would have to say how.  She just couldn’t say she related to April.  She’d have to say she related to April because she too had an annoying little sister who always wanted to do what she did.

Some semesters I would have students read  three days a week and some semesters I would have them read everyday.  If I got busy and forgot it was the day we were supposed to read, students  would remind me that   we supposed to read and complete the log. Most of my students liked talking to their books.  It’s not realistic to think that all students would like any given strategy.   Sometimes I’m more of an optimist than a realist, when it comes to trying new strategies to get students to do their best.  Fortunately, my students help me stay balanced.

If you’d like a copy of my sentence stems and the reading log I used, I’d be delighted to share them.  Just leave a request in the comment box below. You could use the resources as is or as a starting point to help develop your own handouts.

 

 

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All school libraries are being closed by the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board. What a novel way to promote reading < sarcasm >. What a novel way to improve literary <more sarcasm>. The EQAO scores are going to soar <still more sarcasm>.

A school in Sudbury which no longer has a library takes its students to the public library twice a month. Bravo! <sarcasm>

Cathy Geml, an associate director of the Windsor Catholic School Board, argues that the act of walking to the school library, choosing books to read and returning to class wastes instructional time. No, I’m not kidding. Geml actually said that. The provinces  literacy and numeracy secretariat  maintains  every elementary classroom should have 1000-1500 books. Geml argues that is impossible,  but with the libraries closed one school has 200 – 250 books per classroom.  Teachers can help students choose books. Helping students choose books isn’t going to cut into instructional time. Keeping track of who had what book isn’t going to cut into instructional time?

Geml also says that after making a few calls to school libraries, she discovered that at one school a single book had been signed out. One book indeed <sarcasm>. Geml argues we need to be teaching 21st century learning skills, and the library space will be used for music, arts or drama. But, music, arts and drama programs are being cut too, so they don’t need space.

 

Small wonder the Ontario School Library Association called an emergency meeting.

Are kids going to be able to read books on their banned cell phones now?

You can read more about this in today’s front page of the Toronto Star or here and weep about the logic.

Is this happening where you are?

 

 

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Dyslexia

Image by MMortAH via Flickr

Most of us know what the three “Rs” of education are: Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic. But, how many of us know what the three “D’s” of learning disorders are: Dyslexia (Development reading disorder), Dysgraphia (Developmental writing disorder)   and Dyscalculia (Developmental arithmetic disorder)? How many of us know how these specific learning disorders  affect people? Notice, I didn’t ask how many of us know how these learning disorders affect students. That’s because if you have a learning disorder, it affects you all your life, in all areas of your life- not just when you are a student in school. You don’t outgrow learning disorders; you learn to cope with them.

Developmental reading  disorders are more prevalent than you might think. Most likely, you know someone who has a learning disorder. Experts tell us that up to 17 percent of the population have learning disorders. That’s a lot of people! It’s important for us to understand reading  disorders because we may have family members, friends, co-workers etc. who have them. If we understand the specific nature of DRD and the challenges the individuals face who have DRD, we can be more compassionate and helpful.

In this post, I’m going to examine the first “D” of the three “Ds”- developmental reading disorder also known as dyslexia.

Facts

  • Individuals with DRD  have average or above-average intelligence.
  • DRD is not connected with the ability to think or understand complex ideas.
  • It is not caused by a vision problem.
  • DRD is a function of the problems the brain has recognizing and processing symbols.
  • Individuals with DRD may have difficulty rhyming and separating sounds when they are listening to someone speak.
  • Rhyming and separating sounds are abilities crucial for learning to read.
  • DRD may be found in combination with dysgraphia or dyscalculia since all use symbols to convey meaning.
  • New research suggests brain scans can predict whether individuals will improve at reading.
  • Children with DRD who overcome their reading difficulties  bypass brain regions normally used for reading.

Symptoms

Difficulty in

  • rhyming;
  • learning to recognize words;
  • determining the meaning of simple sentences.

Tests

Before a diagnosis of DRD can be made the following  tests should be conducted to rule out other causes

  • complete medical, developmental, social, school performance , and family history
  • psychoeducational testing
  • psychological testing

Treatment

Treatments can consist of special education services such as

  • Reading specialist help
  • Individualized tutoring
  • Individualized Education Plan specific to the student
  • Psychological counseling to help with self-esteem issues
  • Positive reinforcement

 

Students with reading problems can use software applications like Premier Software to read text to them.  I have my students input text by typing or scanning text into a word processing program and then the software reads the text to them.  My students take delight in listening to their text in a variety of male and female voices with different accents. I also  encourage my students to listen to the novels and plays in their courses.   In ” the old good days” I would have these books and plays on tape for my students, now I can get most of  these as audio books online from places like Audible or in regular bookstores and store them on MP3 players or discs to lend to students.    I’ve even seen an audio only bookstore here in town.  It’s   getting much easier to access audiobooks.  Although I enjoy reading books and do not have DRD, I also like listening to them. I’m always delighted when I get gift certificates for audiobooks.

Prognosis

  • Reading problems can cause behaviour  problems or self-esteem problems in school as a reaction to teasing by other students;
  • Remediation can help students become better readers, but students  will alway face reading challenges even in adults;
  • Reading problems  can lead to problems in certain careers and occupations;
  • Reading problems tend to run in families so families should try to recognize the signs early and seek help as early as preschool;
  • Early intervention can give the best results.

I encourage my students who have reading problems or DRD not to define themselves by what they can’t do or have difficulty doing.  Everyone is challenged in some way.  The point is to discover your strengths and use those to help you  achieve your best.  Find someone to help you with your weaknesses, and you in turn use your strengths to help someone with their weaknesses.  I have my students determine their multiple intelligences so they are aware of their strengths.  We share the information in class, and I encourage them to help one another.  As adults we do this, so why shouldn’t we teach our students to do this.  I think working together and using the various strengths of team members to accomplish a goal is a life skill.

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