The Impact on Lighting and Reading Comprehension
Journey Through Helping My Sons Become Better Readers
Small Successes Along the Way
As the mom of a son with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and another with Autism, to say that getting my kids interested in reading has been difficult would be an understatement. Being creatively-wired myself, I understand the reading comprehension challenges that come from having an imaginative mind that tends to wander.
With my background in design and art education, I've tried many tactics to make reading more exciting and focused: including rewards, choosing books that were made into movies, reading with a special treat, taking turns reading, reviewing what we've read, and more. I've had some success with these tactics throughout the years. Engaging learning styles have helped. Samuel, my oldest with ADD, is an auditory learner. He prefers reading aloud, which increases comprehension. Reading isn't Samuel's favorite activity, but it's becoming less of a struggle. Nathanael, my youngest, is still struggling with comprehension, and he loathes reading.
I've always known that comprehension was a challenge for Nathanael since he has trouble understanding abstract concepts and language. He quickly grasps concrete ideas and phrases, but he tends to take everything literally. He loves reading nonfiction, which we've encouraged by buying and borrowing a plethora of nonfiction books. However, this year's curriculum focused more on stories and chapter books.
Another IEP Meeting
We recently had another Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting for Nathanael. We weren't surprised to find that he is having difficulty with reading comprehension and pronunciation. While Nathanael's teachers and specialists have been, and continue to be, amazing, I believe my son's education is my husband's and my responsibility as well. It pains us to see his on-going struggle.
I immediately began brainstorming what we can do to help. I looked into tutoring and other learning services for the summer. I dusted off my "Reading And Learning To Read," which continually stresses individual learning needs.
My Big Mistake
As I assessed my efforts in working with Nathanael, I thought back to last summer when we read J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit," then watched the movie. I remembered that Nathanael was continually acting out scenes during that time. He was pretending to run from the orcs and fight against Smaug, the dragon. He was yelling out facts and asking about dates and events.
I soon realized that I've been making a huge mistake in assuming that the tactics I've used with Samuel would work for Nathanael. Nathanael has been showing signs of being a logical/kinesthetic learner, and I've primarily focused on auditory/spatial stimuli!
Incorporating Multi-Sensory Activities
I decided to refocus our reading strategy by introducing activities that would incorporate different senses and actions. My goal in doing this was to help increase Nathanael's comprehension and make this reading activity more fun for both boys.
The kids chose C.S. Lewis's, "The Chronicles Of Narnia—The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe." We added Sengled Multicolor Smart Light Bulbs and Strips, Amazon Echo Dot with Alexa; toy figures and castle; a blanket fort; tea; and a fresh-baked lemon tea cake (Narnian-style) that filled the house with a mouth-watering aroma. Finally, we had Alexa play music from The Chronicles of Narnia movie softly in the background.
"Alexa, Play music from 'The Chronicles of Narnia' movie."
They were very excited as they played with the multicolor lighting to set the stage. As usual, both boys and I took turns reading aloud, but this time we encouraged Nathanael to ask questions as we read. We also let Nathanael ask Alexa for definitions of words he didn't know, which helped him practice enunciating. In doing this, Nathanael would have a more active role in the process of his comprehension. He asked questions such as, "Alexa, what is a parcel?" and "Alexa, what was a wireless back in 1940?" As we read, Nathanael naturally began to act out the story with the toy models. At times I would stop and help him to relate to main characters by asking things like, "How would you feel if you walked into the closet and ended up in a different land?" and "How do you think Lucy felt when she first saw Mr. Tumnus?"
Do My Kids Love Reading Now?
I asked the boys if they had fun. Both agreed that reading this way was more fun. Do they absolutely love reading now? Not at all! This activity was more about exploring ways to make reading more enjoyable and to help overcome obstacles to comprehension.
I know that their love for reading won't happen overnight. My goal is to help make reading engaging and as gratifying as possible so that their love (or even like) of reading will grow. When I asked them what their favorite part of our activity was, they both agreed, "Eating the cake!"