Archives for Reading
1. Narrower columns of print, as in newspapers, reduce saccadic eye movement (the rapid shuttling of the eyes back and forth across lines of text), enabling readers to move more quickly through text, with less fatigue. And faster readers comprehend better, because reading too slowly is boring and causes the mind to wander.
If you haven't heard this latest buzz phrase, you will soon. Standardized tests and schools alike are shifting their focus towards cultivating not just more reading, but reading that is deep, thoughtful, purposeful...close reading. This is good news, because close reading is one of the skills that well-prepared, informed, mentally active and employable adults need in order to thrive in our increasingly complex and sophisticated world.
If I ever write my memoirs, I’ll devote one chapter to each of the books that changed my life, by authors including Dan Ariely, Judith Rich Harris, Steven Pinker, Martin Seligman, Shirley Glass, John and Julie Gottman and Haim Ginott. I’ve always been a reader and a learner, and it’s no coincidence that I wound up in the education field. I believe in the power of knowledge to solve problems and make life comprehensible and happier. I love this time of the year; time to think about a fresh start and renewed goals. For the past two years I’ve curated collections of favorite TED talks, which you can view here:
Dear Friends, The other day I had a wonderful conversation with one of my older students. He was brimming over with enthusiasm for his senior-level College Reading class. It's really more a structured study period than a class, in which students come in every day and spend the entire 48-minute period silently reading a book of their choice. When they're finished they write a brief summary of the book and then select another. The whole point, of course, is to get college-bound seniors used to the discipline of sustained, focused reading. And this particular student was loving it! As soon as he left I grabbed my notebook and jotted down everything I could remember of what he had said so I could share with you this glimpse into the head of an older, more mature student. (Read on, dear parents of tweens, and take heart!):
Dear Friends, Back-to-school time is the perfect time to start fresh routines and establish healthy habits. These are the ones parents and I have been talking about the most: First of All, Plan for Adequate Sleep: Most kids don't get enough sleep. Students learn better, feel better and behave better when they're properly rested. Check with your pediatrician and find out how many hours of sleep your child ought to be logging per night (chances are good you'll be shocked at the large number), and then set the appropriate bedtime and enforce it. Limit Electronics: Computers and cellphones and anything else with a glowing screen (including TVs and video games) need to be turned off one hour before bedtime to allow the mind to calm down for good sleep (this applies to adults, too!). And do establish cellphone-free chunks of time during the afternoon and evening; students need to read, study and eat dinner in peace. Interestingly, parents have been telling me that their kids often seem relieved to be given breaks from the relentless social pressure and privacy invasion of social media. I also felt this from my SAT class; students seemed to like my rule of collecting their cellphones before class! Establish the Reading Habit: Before the school year becomes super-hectic, build in the habit of quiet reading for 20-30 minutes before lights out. Don't Overschedule: Too many sports and extra-curricular activities aren't fun; they're stressful!
Dear Friends, A young student of mine began reading a fun-looking (to me) book called Schooled; I smiled as soon as I saw the peace symbol and tie-dye cover. Here's the Amazon synopsis:"Capricorn Cap Anderson has been homeschooled by his hippie grandmother, Rain. When Rain is injured in a fall, Cap is forced to attend the local middle school. Although he knows a lot about Zen Buddhism, nothing has prepared him for the politics of public school." But of course my fifth grade student was having trouble relating to the book because, unlike me, he knew nothing about flower children, communes or any of the other 60's era references. He had read the first two chapters on his own and was totally confused and lost.
Dear Friends, I get a kick out of the recent Volkswagen commercial in which two guys pile into their Passat for a road trip, and then the passenger is appalled when his driver pal announces that instead of listening to music they're going to learn a language. Thirteen hours later, the buddies climb out of the car at a rest stop; the friend is still highly annoyed, and he rants and fumes at his companion...in fluent Spanish: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3D65jLwj-0 My own kids passed a good chunk of their childhoods in the car; I've always been an eager and ambitious traveler, so we spent virtually every school break driving somewhere. And we made those hours pass by listening to books on tape.
Dear Friends, It's a snow day here, and I crave nothing more than a cup of tea and a good book. But so many of my students don't feel the same way; they don't "choose to read," as parents often despair. Although it is true that some kids learn to read more easily than do others, love of reading itself is not an inherent personality characteristic but is instead an acquired taste.