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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