Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Struggles of a Reluctant Reader

Special article written by guest blog writer, Robert A. Brennan, Jr., M.D.

My first memories of reading involve Sister Mary Anthony. She became upset because I could not read the word “rag.” Throughout grade school I did not understand the need for phonics. I memorized the appearance and pronunciation of words. Later, I memorized their spelling. My older sister, Ann, tried to help me with my reading. She instructed me to read phrases and not words. She also said not to point with my fingers while reading.

During high school, I read rather slowly without much purpose. I just dove in and plodded along. I slowly understood the meaning of what I read. A great deal of the time, I read and reread until I comprehended the meaning of the text.

In early college, I discovered the SQ3R Method. This grew out of an elaborate program (1946, E. S. Robinson) at the Ohio State University designed to analyze and treat academic problems:

1. The “S” involves surveying the heading of what one is about to read.

2. The “Q” step involves formulating questions about the material. If there are questions at the end of a chapter, this step involves reading them before one starts reading the chapter.

3. The first “R” involves reading to remember. One should notice italicized words or phrases. One should read everything: tables, graphs, and illustrations.

4. The next “R” involves reciting the synopsis of what one has read. One should pay attention to principal ideas and main headings. One should correct his mistakes and keep his attention to task.

5. The final “R” involves review. One should do this immediately after the first read and one or two reviews in between before the information is needed. These steps were enough for awhile.

However, I felt that I needed increased speed for the reading part of the SQ3R Method. In addition to my courses, I took a night course from the DeCoursey Reading Institute. This involved flashing words and phrases on a screen with a tachy projector or tachistoscope, an apparatus for use in exposing visual stimuli, as pictures, letters, or words, for an extremely brief period, used chiefly to assess visual perception or to increase reading speed. This did not seem to help. However, with my other courses looming, perhaps I did not devote enough time to increasing my reading speed.

Later, I purchased the Evelyn Wood Course in Speed Reading (1988, American Learning Corporation). This was a home-study course. Again, this course did not seem to increase my reading speed.

I purchased another course form the Nightingale-Conant Corporation. This was Mega Speed Reading (1996, Howard Stephen Berg and Kevin Trudeau). The main fact I learned from this course was to use one’s hand under the text to increase speed. One reads phrases and sentences but not words.

The next method that I tried was the Reading Focus Card (2009, Brennan Innovators, LLC). This is a textured card that blocks out and isolates text. It uses different filters to enhance reading comprehension and block out distractions. The RFC increased my comprehension and my memory. Although it did not increase my speed, I found the RFC to be very helpful in keeping my place in the text and when reading from a computer screen. In the morning, I often eat my cereal with one hand and use the other hand with the RFC to read my daily paper.

If I really need to review and remember the information, I write out 3” X 5” cards with the information and review these cards often.

Currently, I use a combination of all of the above methods. However, my search continues.

Dr. Robert A. Brennan, Jr. is a successful OB-Gyn physician with more than 30 years experience. He is currently practicing in the Greater St. Louis Area.

For information on customizable reading tools: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Why Are They NOT Reading at Grade Level?

Did you know that over 68% of America's 4th, 8th and 12th graders are not reading at grade level?(Source: National Center for Education Statistics) Yes, this current statistic indicates that we actually have a “reading crisis” in our country today. Why is this?

If you are a parent or teacher, there is a very good chance that when you were growing up, you engaged in different play activities from what children engage in today. You enjoyed more physical activities such as running, jumping, bike riding, playing hop-scotch, building make-shift tents or forts and much more. Those activities not only provided physical activity and healthy exercise, but they also helped you develop good, vision-related skills---proper balance, good eye-hand coordination, appropriate tracking of an object, peripheral vision skills, left-to-right discrimination and eye progression and more.

Today, children often do not have the same opportunities to develop these skills, certainly not to the level required for the building of good reading skills. Where you may have played dodge ball in the street at age 10, today’s 10 year-old boys and girls are often spending long periods of free time in a very different way. Television viewing and playing video games are at the top of their list of “activities” today. When this is the case, not only do youth obesity rates increase, but the vision skills needed for appropriate development of good reading skills may not properly develop.

Current statistics show that the average child in the U.S. spends 1,480 minutes per week watching television (more than 24 hours per week). Even more disturbing, when asked to choose between watching TV and spending time with their fathers, 54% of 4-6 year-olds preferred watching television. As a group, children under age eight spend an average of 25 minutes per day playing video games. (Sources: Statistic Brain, 2012 and Media Statistics - Children’s Use of TV, Internet, and Video Games by Dr. Brent Conrad, Clinical Psychologist for TechAddiction)

So, if you have a young child, seriously consider finding appropriate ways to increase the amount of time your child spends engaged in good, physical activity. Frequent walks to the park or just kicking a ball in the backyard are great, yet simple promoters of good balance, peripheral vision skills and much more.

If your child is of school age and actually experiencing reading challenges, there are options that can help in addition to encouraging increased physical activity. First, rule out the possibility that a vision-related reading challenge is causing the issues experienced. To do this, consider making an appointment with a developmental optometrist who is the preferred medical professional for evaluation, diagnosis and treatment for these vision-related reading challenges (visit to locate such a medical professional in your area).

You might also want to check out helpful resources such as and other articles here that can offer good tips, strategies and resources (apps, etc.) to help struggling readers.

In the meantime, please also keep in mind that reading to your child no matter the age will also enhance his development and attitudes toward reading and literacy in general. It will do much to develop your relationship with your child, too! What a great plan of “action” that is!

Happy reading, everyone!

Sources: Statistic Brain (2012) and Media Statistics - Children’s Use of TV, Internet, and Video Games by Dr. Brent Conrad, Clinical Psychologist for TechAddiction ---

For information on customizable reading tools: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Jan. 29, 2013 ONLY! iPad Mini GIVEAWAY by Smart Apps for Kids

Photo courtesy of: Liberty Books Blog at

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Apps for Autism & Asperger’s-2013

Over the past several weeks, we have been receiving more requests than usual for new apps to help children and adults on the autism spectrum. So, we thought that this week’s article might be a good vehicle for providing our readers with an answer to these many requests. What is new in the world of apps for autism/Asperger’s?

We hope you will find a few new resources here to tap into for yourself or for the person in your life challenged with an autism-spectrum disorder. Please tell us what you think of these apps when you have had an opportunity to try them. We would love to receive your VERY valuable input (as always)!

New Apps for Autism/Asperger’s

Autism Apps for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad---FREE (Updated: Jan 10, 2013) ---Educational Autism Apps is simply a comprehensive list of apps that are being used with and by people diagnosed with autism, Down syndrome and other special needs. It also includes links to any available information that can be found for each app. The Apps are also separated into over 30 categories, and the descriptions are all searchable, so any type of app is easy to find and download.

Autism Apps from Autism Speaks (for Android & Apple)---Long list of autism apps that provides app titles, platform compatibilities, prices, content categories and online app access (click links)---an excellent online resource from a most reputable organization. (Some are FREE apps)

MySocius Model (Released: Nov 13, 2012) by BehaviorApp --- MySocius is an iPhone and iPad app designed for parents who want to help their child with autism communicate. This app uses evidence based, Naturalistic Teaching Procedures that “embeds teaching within the activities of everyday life.” Naturalistic Teaching Procedures have proved to be effective in clinical practice. Price: $24.99 (Expensive, but for what it claims to provide, this may be worth the price.)

Autism Apps List from the TCI Tech Review Blog---–Short list of Apple-compatible autism apps from last half of 2012 to January 2013. Individual reviews provide pricing, summaries, iTunes access links and more. (All have prices that are from $1.99 to $99.00)

For information on sensory-appealing reading tools: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Study Tips, Tricks & Resources for ALL Readers & Learners

Now that the New Year 2013 is well underway, students are returning to classrooms. Teachers are resuming the assignments of class work and homework. Parents are once again facing the sometimes daunting task of motivating their children to complete challenging, long-term projects or helping them prepare for tests.

That is why today’s article will provide teachers and parents with resources to help with the successful completion of school work and study. We have listed below here some FREE options to assist students of ALL ages and abilities with time management, organization and study tips and tricks, the key pieces for academic success. We hope you will find each resource to benefit someone you know who needs a little extra help in the “homework & study department” for the new year.

Time Management Tools

Basic Blank Monthly Calendars---FREE printables for easy customizing to individual needs and notes (2 versions)

More Blank Monthly Calendar Templates---More FREE printables for customizing to individual needs on a monthly basis (includes templates through December 2015)

High School and College Assignment Planner--- FREE printable for College and High School Course Assignment Semester/Year Planner (can be used for middle school students as well)

APPS--5 Time Management Apps for the iPhone---by Eric Baxter and short list of a few iPhone apps that have been designed to help you better manage your time.

APPS--15 Awesome Time Management Tools and Apps---You will find that most of these tools are browser-based and can work on any computer whether it is Windows, Mac or Linux. By the way, , you will also notice that ALL of these tools are FREE!

Organizational Tools

Graphic Organizers (for Primary Students)---Many kinds of FREE graphic organizers for primary teachers and parents of younger students can be found here. These graphic organizers are great for teaching lessons to elementary children. These can also help to organize thoughts for writing and retention of information.

Graphic Organizers (for Elementary Students)--- Help your students or children classify ideas and communicate more effectively. Use these FREE graphic organizers to structure writing projects, to help in problem solving, decision making, studying, planning research and brainstorming.

Graphic Organizers (for Middle & High School Students)---Middle and high school as well as college students can benefit from the FREE graphic organizers on this site. Templates for Brainstorming, a Classroom Weekly Newsletter and others can be accessed via this site.

APPS--Top 5 Apps for Organizing School Work---From Edudemic---Here are a few apps geared specifically towards organization for the student.

Study Tips

Why Your Good Study Habits Are Wrong---Article from WebMD with a list of new tips to include in a young student’s study routine (includes a “listening” option for the article)

Homework & Study Skills---A compilation of articles from the National Center for Learning Disabilities, each containing information and many study resources for both young AND older students (teens, too), especially for those with reading and learning challenges

9 Awesome Study Tips For College Students---Article from the Huffington Post that presents “new” study tips that work for college students (some information shared from the New York Times)’s College Study Tips---This web site contains college study tips, guides and tricks to help you manage your time, take better notes, study more effectively, improve memory, take tests, etc.

APP--Study Tips---by CoolAppsA --- FREE app for iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation), iPod touch (5th generation) and iPad-Requires iOS 5.0 or later---The 365 tips and quotes included in the app are based on decades of research in the fields of education and psychology and on field tests with a broad spectrum of students from middle school to post-graduate level, including many with attention and learning issues.

Happy reading and studying in this New Year 2013!

For more information: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers