Saturday, May 31, 2014

Reading + Color = A Great Combination for Struggling Readers of ALL Ages!

Updated October 2015
During the past several years, we have met many parents, teachers and adults at educational conferences who were looking for solutions for struggling readers. More than a few have asked for strategies and tips to help challenged readers in their children, their students or sometimes even for themselves.

Sometime ago, we actually created a list of such strategies that we provide for the individuals we serve when they order our Reading Focus Cards (Patent 7,565,759). However, we also post it (FREE, of course!) on our website for all who might benefit. You can access this list by visiting Strategies and Accommodations for Challenged Learners.

A number of readers who have implemented some of the strategies on the list involving the use of COLOR have shared with us their individual experiences with some of those tips. We always find personal testimonies to be very valuable to others and thought our readers here might benefit from reading just a few of their stories in this week's blog article.

The Woman and the Pink Paper

We sometimes receive calls from around the world from parents and teachers of struggling readers, but most of our requests for phone consultation come from here in the U.S. One such call came to us one day about a year ago. A woman called to ask why she was not able to read for long periods at a time. She mentioned that her eyes tired easily and far too quickly for her to accomplish much reading at all.

We asked the woman (age unknown) if she had tried to modify the page backgrounds of the texts she had been attempting to read. She said she had not yet tried that strategy and asked why this might matter in her situation. We explained that "white" page backgrounds can sometimes cause "visual stress" for many readers. The traditional black text on white ground can often be too stark of a contrast for more readers than one might imagine. Therefore, eyes tire much more easily, reading times are shortened and reading work is often not completed as expected.

We then suggested to the woman that she print or copy documents from her computer using a pastel color (rather than the usual white paper). We also recommended that she try a DIFFERENT pastel color EACH week until she could determine the color that was most comfortable for her and helped promote the most focus and attention. In addition, we mentioned that local office supply stores usually can provide a ream of paper (for about $12.00) with 5 or 6 different pastel colors in the one package. She was intrigued with this new strategy and was ready to try it right after our conversation concluded.

Several weeks later, we received a second phone call from this challenged reader, telling us that our recommended strategy had really worked for her. She then said, "Now, I print everything I can on PINK paper!" Thanks so much for telling me about this tip!" Again, color can unblock brain pathways and improve connectivity in the brain.

"Mom, It Has to Be Green!"

About 3 years ago, we received a phone call from the mother of a gifted child (on the autism spectrum) in St. Louis. She described her 8 year-old son as interested in learning about everything, but he struggled to read. She could not understand why he was challenged in this way. This prevented him from learning about all the things that most interested him. This mother homeschooled her son and also enrolled him in a supplemental program for gifted in the local school district. On the phone, we talked about visual stress and white page backgrounds as possible culprits. She asked if we could meet with her and allow her son to interact or try our Reading Focus Cards. Of course, we made arrangements to do just that on the following day.

At our meeting, this very articulate young boy told us that he liked the green reading tools, but any tool he used would also need to have green filters. We accommodated him and custom-cut 2 green filters for his needs. His mother mentioned to us as an aside that he was in a "green" mood lately and that he wanted everything to be some color or shade of green (specific color, texture and other types of preferences can sometimes be symptoms of an autism spectrum disorder.) At that same meeting, we also recommended that a visit be scheduled with a developmental optometrist in the area for further evaluation of her son's reading issues. An appointment was made with the Pupil Project at the University of Missouri-School of Optometry (specialists in developmental optometry).

Even today, three years later, this young man sometimes uses his green Reading Focus Card with its green filter to read with more comfort, focus and retention. He remembered us at a local educational event not too long ago and said, "You made my green focus card so that I could read!" Color can do some awesome things for some readers!

The "Exhausted" Red Overlay

We will never forget the woman (about 50 years of age) who visited us at an educational conference about 2 years ago. She arrived at our exhibit table with a very large piece of red but transparent plastic sheeting (about 18" x 24" in size). We could see that the red transparency was crinkled in many places, yet the woman held it carefully with her 2 hands. We must have looked puzzled when we saw it, for the woman began to explain that this was one of her most important tools. She could not read without it and so was seeking a replacement for her "battle-worn" reading device. She had been unable to find a red transparency material---anywhere. She asked if we could help her.

Although we occasionally provide specific colors of overlays for our clients and customers, our reading tools of choice are the Reading Focus Cards (Patent 7,565,759), since they promote more focus AND block out more surrounding text than any other reading tools available. In addition, these tools can change page background colors with the reading window filters included with the Reading Focus Cards. It is important to note that when color is introduced, especially for challenged readers, it can unblock brain pathways, promote more focus and improve reading comprehension. Color was certainly important to this woman who struggled to read.

She had seen our reading tools displayed on the exhibit table, which caused the woman to stop and inquire. We mentioned to her that we would be able to provide her with 2 RED reading filters for a set of reading tools in our Reading Focus Card Combo Pack. A demonstration followed, and it was obvious that this woman became excited about having a possible replacement tool for her wrinkled, red overlay. She immediately purchased 2 Combo Packs plus the special set of 2 red filters (Our Reading Focus Card Combo Packs are always packaged with yellow, deep blue and clear filters, as per recommendation by developmental optometrists,)

Just a few days later, the woman sent us an email about how the Reading Focus Cards with the red filters had helped her focus and read better. She also mentioned how they were so much more portable than her worn-out overlay had been. We were not surprised but very pleased to help her!

Solution Found for This Dad Who Struggled to Read

About 2 months ago at the most recent Greater St. Louis Area Home Educators Expo, one father saw our Reading Focus Cards displayed and immediately stopped and asked if he could try them on the spot. That is why we have our reading tools available at every educational conference we visit, so that anyone who wishes can interact with them and see firsthand how they can help an individual reader.

This dad was about 45 years old and indicated to us that he had been a challenged reader all of his life. However, as he picked up one of our taupe brown Reading Focus Cards with the deep blue filter installed in it, he was so surprised to find that text "stopped moving" when he placed it on a page of print at the table. We were not surprised because we have witnessed this more than a few times. He left our table and the conference with 2 Reading Focus Card Combo Packs to help him focus and read with more success.

Yes, color can make such a difference for challenged readers of any age and at any time.

Color & Focusing Resources for Challenged Readers of ALL Ages

Reading Focus Cards Desktop App (Patent 8,360,779)
NEW innovative DESKTOP app to help challenged readers experience much more FOCUS and VISUAL COMFORT when reading on a Mac or Windows PC. Please visit to learn more about this fully-customizable Reading Focus Cards app that enables struggling readers of ALL ages to experience more reading SUCCESS with DIGITAL media!

FREE Downloadable Paper Resources for Writing & Printing

For more information on customizable reading tools that employ COLOR for better focus & improved attention, please visit: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Image courtesy of:
GLBT News at
Brennan Innovators, LLC at

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Math Games to Get AND Keep Them Engaged

Updated July 2015
It's that time of year when children just can't wait for summer vacation to begin, and parents are more than a little anxious about plans for keeping them busy---all summer long.

As we mentioned in last week's article, Reading Games to Get AND Keep Their Attention, it's important to help children avoid the dreaded Summer Slide, the loss of learning and developed skills during the three-month break before the new school year. In that same article, we served up a collection of literacy games for children of all ages to play, to help retain those skills and to be ready for the next academic year.

This week, however, we wanted to provide you with a similar list of math game resources to appeal to the budding mathematicians in your families or the math wizards in your classroom. Even if a child you know is not interested in developing better math skills (or doesn't like math at all!), these games just might turn the tide and entertain that same child while teaching some much-needed math skills, too.

We think you'll discover that these math games will get AND keep them engaged---all summer long!

Online Games Math Games

playKidsgames---A collection of online math games for all ages (FREE)

Math Games---from PBS
A large group of math games to make math learning fun for children K-6! (FREE)

Kids' Math Games---Enjoy a wide range of free, online math games, interactive learning activities and "fun" educational resources that will engage students while they learn mathematics. Find cool math games, interesting facts, printable worksheets, quizzes, videos and so much more! (FREE)

IXL Learning---Online math practice games that seem like play! IXL Learning provides comprehensive, standards-aligned math (and language arts practice) for K–12. (FREE but with some promotional elements)

Offline Games Math Games

Tally Mark Dominoes & Speed Racer Math Games---by A. McDonald, No Time for Flashcards
Learning after school at Ms. McDonald's house has to be fast-paced and fun. These math games are both. They are also a cinch to make and inexpensive, too.

LEGO Math Games---by Cathy James
Do you have a child who just loves to play with LEGOs? LEGOs are a classic, open-ended toy that can be used in so many different ways by creative kids---even with MATH!

Secret Code For Kids---by A. McDonald, No Time for Flashcards
This math game can especially appeal to children interested in secret codes and spies!(K-3)

Make Your Own Math Games---from TeachMama
No matter what you need to practice, a make-your-own math game is the ticket to practice that's FUN!

Unschooling Tools: Games---from Stephanie, Ordinary Life Magic
Lists of boxed games available to help teach specific math concepts.

Other Helpful Math Resources

Tools for Math Games at Home---by Erica MomandKiddo, What Do We Do All Day?
Ten, handy tools you can use with math games! You probably have most of them in a nearby closet or drawer!

40+ Resources Involving Dice---from KB...Connected
Math games, printable dice, virtual dice, math centers, ancient dice games, create your own dice and much more!

SPECIAL NOTE: To access the companion article to the above post, just click on its title here: Reading Games to Get AND Keep Their Attention (K-12)

For more information on customizable reading tools for better focus & improved attention, please visit: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Image courtesy of: at and
Brennan Innovators, LLC at

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Reading Games to Get AND Keep Their Attention (K-12)

It's no secret. Children across the U.S. are excitedly counting the days until the end of the school year. For many, the last day of the year will be just before Memorial Day. For others, especially those having to make up some of the extended winter's snow days, the last dismissal bell may be scheduled for sometime in early or even mid-June. Perhaps this year more than ever, children (and their parents!) are really looking forward to the sunshine, warmth and free time that the coming summer will allow.

With all of this anticipated fun just round the corner, how can parents keep young minds engaged over the next few months so that their children won't experience the dreaded Summer Slide, a term often used to describe the loss of learning when young minds sit idle during the three months away from school for summer vacation?

It can be more than a little challenging to ask children each summer day to daily work math problems or to read a non-fiction book a week from the first day of the summer break until Labor Day. Such suggestions just might be met with protests and resistance, unless the children are naturally avid readers or little math whizzes. However, you can pair brain-sharpening games and activities with reading and math content to keep those little (and larger) brains fully engaged all summer long. What's more, we're going to help you do it!

This week we have collected a list of links to more than a few reading games (categorized according to grade/age level) that will help your children enhance their reading skills AND have fun doing it. Isn't that what the summer should be about? The use of the resources here will also enable them to have a little more structure to their daily schedule and help them appreciate more the unstructured or personal free time they'll have, too.

It is so important to keep children reading and learning in some fashion all year long---even during the summer vacation time. "Motivating children to read throughout the year is essential to building lifelong readers," says Carol H. Rasco, president and CEO of RIF. "And reading is the doorway to all other learning." So check out our reading game resources provided for you here, choose the ones that might work best with your children and then watch them enjoy reading and learning ALL summer long. They'll be SO ready for the next school year if you do!

GREAT Reading Games to Get AND Keep Their Attention

Reading: Games, Activities & Resources (for Ages 5-8) (FREE)
Here are 12 enjoyable and helpful ways to nurture your children’s reading skills.

Fun Reading Games for Kids : How to Teach Kids New Words with "Throwing Dice," the Reading Game VIDEO (recommended for Grade 3) (FREE)
Learn new vocabulary words and home spelling skills with this dice game for 3rd graders.

Reading Games for 3rd Graders VIDEOS (most FREE)
A list of links & videos of reading games for Grade 3.¶m1=¶m2=¶m3=&vx=0

Reading Games for 4th Graders VIDEOS (most FREE)
A collection of reading games (with accompanying videos) for Grade 4.¶m1=¶m2=¶m3=&vx=0

Fifth Grade Vocabulary Learning Games (FREE)
As they prepare to transition to middle school, fifth graders enjoy reinforcing their regular vocabulary lessons with entertaining learning games that not only teach them new words in language arts but also develop their interest in learning. Practicing vocabulary concepts in a fun way ensures that students acquire new language arts skills while setting the stage for a lifetime of learning appreciation.

Reading Bingo from ScholasticKids (for Gr. 5-8) (FREE)
Print out the FREE STACKS Reading Bingo card available on this website. Use it according to the directions provided OR make up your own game for your next trip to the library!

Reading Games for Middle School (FREE)
A collection of language arts games for Grades 6-8.¶m1=¶m2=¶m3=&vx=0

Language Arts: Middle School Games (some FREE)
These games are from such sites as Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, a large international learning company, Beacon Learning Center, Merriam-Webster and the Adult Literacy Media Alliance.

Reading Comprehension Games for High School---by Andrew Button (FREE or with materials on-hand)
Reading comprehension is one of the most important skills for high school students. Without reading comprehension skills, it is impossible to effectively study most subjects. However, while the importance of reading comprehension is obvious, the means for learning it are not so clear. If your child or students have trouble with reading comprehension, use games to make learning the skill fun and interesting.

Fun Reading Activities for High School---by Peggy Epstein (FREE or with materials on-hand)
Providing alternate activities for teenagers can increase their interest in reading and build valuable skills. These activities can be used with all subject areas, allowing for a variety of worthwhile and entertaining reading activities.

Reading Games and Activities from K12 Reader (for K-12, categorized by grade level)
Here you'll find reading games and activities to help teach important reading concepts in the classroom and at home. Interactive activities like these make learning more fun for students and help them to understand the material.

Keeping Kids Off the Summer Slide from Reading Is Fundamental(RIF) &

SPECIAL NOTE: To access the companion article to the above post, just click on its title here: Math Games to Get AND Keep Them Engaged

For more information on customizable reading tools for better focus & improved attention, please visit: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Image courtesy of:
Photo credit: paloetic via photopin cc and Brennan Innovators, LLC at

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Create Moments to Remember When You Read with Your Child

Special Readers' Edition for Mother's Day 2014

Do you read often with your child? Have you considered reading aloud with or to your teenager? When was the last time you and your daughter read a book together and followed the reading with a related activity? So it's been awhile, has it? What better time than now with Mother's Day approaching to get right back into the "swing" of reading with your child---AND enjoying it, too!

When my children were very small, I read aloud to them almost daily as we sat together in the rocking chair. The soothing movement of that now well-worn piece of nursery furniture and the pleasant cadence of reading our sons' favorite books made for a comforting activity for all of us in the family. Just glancing now at that chair brings back such great memories.

In those early years, one book that we read again and again was The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. It was certainly a favorite, and it helped to teach the boys that one should be determined, never giving up in the face of difficulties. Another book they liked to read often was The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone about Grover of Sesame Street fame. However, that was a book we were careful NOT to read to them right before bedtime!

Later, even when the boys were young teens in late middle school, my husband and I read aloud to them at the end of a day when they were in bed and (hopefully but not always!) ready for sleep. For some weeks, I can recall reading them the chapters from Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. and Ernestine Gilbreth until we finished the book together. Our two eldest sons liked the book so much that they had asked if they, too, could do some of the same activities that the Gilbreth Family had done in the book. In fact, that is how our family came to establish what was known as the Weekly Family Meeting. All four of our sons still talk about this today---and the youngest is in his mid-twenties!

So, how can YOU create some great memories while reading to your child? Aside from reading the books we did as a family, we believe there are many other tips and strategies to offer you as well. To follow here, we have gathered some resources to help you with this. However, before you begin, please keep in mind that it's never too late to read with AND to your child or teen. In fact, we even know a few adults who read often to their spouses. You might try reading a favorite poetry selection to your "significant other" and enjoy the response or reaction that results. With your child or teen, consider reading aloud a classic short story with perhaps an unexpected twist at the end (Choose Your Own Adventure books or some of O.Henry's short stories might be good candidates for intermediate readers or teens, respectively). Who knows? You might just create a wonderful moment to remember and the first of a long series of good memories!

Happy reading, parents---AND children, too! Happy Mother's Day to ALL our mothers, as well!

Reading Resources for Parents

The Reading Toolkit (The ABCs of Reading)
by Zoƫ Kashner of Scholastic Books
Every parent’s toolkit for raising successful readers, including leveled reading, reading strategies, activities, book lists, and more (for parents of children ages 6 to 13).

Seven Things You Should Be Doing as You’re Reading to Your Child
by Jenae of I Can Teach My Child
Specific strategies parents can implement while reading to their children.

Where to Find the Best Help-My-Child-with-Reading Ideas and Activities
from Imagination Soup
If you find yourself needing new ideas for reading with your children, check these Pinterest boards.

Adventures in Reading
by Christie Burnett, early childhood teacher, presenter, writer & editor of Childhood 101
Simple ways to encourage a love of books and make reading a part of every day.

Producing Lifelong Readers
by Hillary of Pulling Curls
3 things that can help produce lifelong readers in every family.

More Parent-Child Reading Activities
Pinterest board for additional parent/child reading activities---ALL in one place!

For more information on customizable reading tools for focus and tracking challenges, please visit: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Image courtesy of:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Helpful Focus & Tracking Resources for Challenged Readers

Is your child a reluctant reader? If so, do you know why? Are some of your students unable to stay focused when reading in class? Do you know a child whose eyes wander all over a page of text or only "see" the pictures on a page? These are only a few of the reading problems that teachers and parents often describe to us and for which they often request appropriate strategies, resources and apps to help.

If an individual of any age (even an adult) is struggling with focus or tracking, the first step should be to seriously consider visiting a developmental optometrist for a comprehensive eye exam (Please see resources to follow here.) This special medical professional can test, evaluate, diagnose and provide treatment for vision-related problems whose symptoms often manifest in the classroom. These challenges will negatively impact an individual's reading skills (reading fluency, rate, comprehension and retention of what is read) and, as a result, that individual's overall academic success.

Secondly, the right strategies and resources for students with these reading issues can go a long way in helping them manage specific symptoms or even improve the reading experience for them. Today, in our weekly blog article, we are addressing these same needs. Since we at Brennan Innovators are all about reading improvement and academic success, we wanted to provide our readers with some resources specific to focus and tracking. In this way, perhaps we can help to positively affect the level of reading success for many struggling readers.

Helpful Focus and Tracking Resources

5 Simple Concentration Building Techniques for Kids with ADHD
by Dr. Robert Myers, Child Psychologist
Children with ADHD typically have impairment of executive functions such as focusing and memory. Provide them with encouragement and track their progress
with these helpful strategies.

College of Optometrists in Vision Development
COVD is a non-profit, international membership association of eye care professionals including optometrists, optometry students, and vision therapists. Established in 1971, COVD provides board certification for optometrists and vision therapists who are prepared to offer state-of-the-art services in behavioral and developmental vision care, vision therapy and visual rehabilitation. This website will offer many resources for parents and educators as well as a Locator Tool (accessible via the upper-right-hand corner of each web page on the site) to help visitors find a developmental optometrist in their region/area.

Eye Focusing, Coordination, and Tracking Problems---from Children's Vision Coalition
A comprehensive list with explanations of vision-related problems whose symptoms often manifest in the classroom and can affect reading and academic success. A thorough (comprehensive) eye exam is necessary for detection and treatment.

Vision and Reading---from Children's Vision Information Network (for Parents)
Important information about why your child might be struggling in the classroom.

Eye Can Learn's Eye Exercises
This is an excellent website with eye exercises to improve learning and visual attention (perception, tracking, focusing, and eye teaming).

TeacherVision's Printables---from (for Educators)
Use these FREE printables and resources to help your students focus, keep track, analyze, and get the most from their reading selections.

TeacherVision's Reading Resources(only)---from (for Educators)
Enhance reading skills with this extensive collection of printables, lesson plans, and activities on a variety of skill-building topics. Included you'll find popular resources for reading comprehension, phonics, literature, story analysis, alphabetizing, reading games and puzzles, and more. Plus, use reading in cross-curricular study with lessons that connect reading with science, social studies, history, math, and art. Learning to read well is a vital skill for students to master. Help them achieve that goal with these reading resources.

Reading Apps for Children---Common Sense Media (Various prices for Android & Apple)
An assortment of children's apps to help improve various reading skills.

Reading Focus Cards Desktop App (Patent 8,360,779)
This DESKTOP app is the digital version of the low-tech, physical Reading Focus Cards tools (Patent 7,565,759), solutions for struggling readers. This app provides very practical support for children and adults with ADHD, dyslexia, low vision, stroke or brain injury issues, autism and other conditions that can affect reading success. This desktop application promotes more FOCUSED online reading of almost ALL digital media (webpages, PDF files, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets & more.) In addition, the app supports touch-screen technology (where applicable).
1. For Macs (desktops & notebooks):
Visit the Mac App Store and search for Reading Focus Cards or go directly to
2. For Windows PCs (desktops & laptops):
Visit Gumroad at OR visit the Microsoft Windows Store and search for the app called Reading Focus Cards. (No URLs are ever provided for apps in the Windows Store.)

15 Mac Apps to Help You Focus and Work Productively (some FREE)---by Stef Gonzaga
15 Mac apps that help you focus, whether it’s dimming the screen, blocking social networking sites, closing inactive applications, or working in time bursts. You can use one or mix a couple of these apps to fit the way you work.

Focus Mask---from TenTrip, LLC (Requires: Mac OS X 10.6 or later) Price: $0.99
Focus Mask is another Mac application designed to get rid of distractions while you work. But more than just putting the active windows on stage with the rest behind the curtain, Focus Mask allows you to selectively choose which window to bring to the front and to isolate a part of a window through easy shortcuts. You can do this either through pattern detection or by manually highlighting the chosen portion by dragging and clicking the selection.

For more information on customizable reading tools for focus and tracking challenges, please visit: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Image courtesy of:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at