Reading versus Listening

Reading is Essential--Not just an option

The other day I ran across a Tweet on Twitter (these words just crack me up!) linked to a blog that suggested we stop pushing teaching kids to read and just let them listen to audio, to us read, to videos. Why? Because that's what they like. It's a great example of taking "teaching to learning styles" to an extreme.  An extreme that doesn't serve children well.

Hmm, maybe we should stop encouraging kids to eat fruit, veggies, and whole grains and let them eat sugar all the time because that's what they like.

I've always had trouble with some of the accommodation suggestions for ADHD kids such as read the test aloud for them so they don't have to struggle with reading it.  In high school? In college?  And for several reasons.  This implies that these kids can't learn to read.

Wrong. Kids can learn to read--lots of programs out there that have been highly successful in helping kids learn to read, even those with severe dyslexia.  The biggest challenge is motivating kids to read--and this blog as certainly addressed that issue!

Reading is essential. Period. Not all kids are going to love reading. Become avid readers. Want to go to the library. That's o.k. But they must learn to read.  Encouraging reading at home goes a long way to helping kids learn to read.

And given that a large number of ADHD kids poor auditory processing, the  "read the test to them" accommodation may not help at all.

To allow kids to go through school without learning to read is limiting them. Luckily the Federal law, "No Child Left Behind" (despite it's many flaws) is requiring reading fluency. What if they want to go to medical school? Law school? Become an engineer? A teacher?

No different than allowing them to eat nothing but sugar and junk food will limit them. They'll get sick. They'll get fat. They'll get diabetes.

Leave me a comment. Should kids read or is it enough to just let them to listen to books?

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  1. I totally agree with you that reading is essential and because a child has ADHD we should not lower the bar. Accomodations yes but a child, all children, have a right to learn to read. Any school system should truly be reprimanded if any child falls through the cracks and does not learn to read to his potential. Allow accomodations like letting the hyperactive child sit on the floor, a mat, a huge ball. Let this child have movement breaks, send him on an errand but never let a child with ADHD nor his parents think it is best to modify the reading program so much that he does not learn to read.

    • Thanks, Lorna, for your good comment. Agree totally with movement breaks, sitting on balls, etc. to help ADHD kids focus enough that they can learn to read . . . because they can learn to read!

  2. Kat Parks says:

    Yes, reading is essential, but how it is taught is just as important as whether it is taught. "Whole Word" reading is just as bad as not learning to read. I learned by phonics. My son was taught "whole word" reading, and I was not able to afford the "Hooked on Phonics" for him at home, so he's suffered for it. He is in his first year of college now, and it is difficult for him. (by the way, I have ADHD, my son does not, so it is not just ADHDers that have this difficulty with reading)

    Have you seen the "Cambridge study" that scrambles the words, keeping only the first and last letters constant? The reason we can read this jumble is interesting, but on the flip side, if a person has only learned "whole word" reading, they may have no idea if something is spelled wrong, or which/witch word is right/rite. Insist that your child is taught phonics if their school is relying on "whole word" reading. make it part of their IEP if necessary. Individual Education Plan isn't to make it an easier workload, it is to make sure that they can learn everything that they need to learn, with all of the tools they need to succeed as an adult, in a way that makes their learning complete.

    If they learn something new by hearing it, have them read out loud into a tape recorder to then play back. They hear it once as they are recording it and again as they are playing it back. But, they need to be the ones actually recording it, not someone else reading it for them.

    • Thanks Kat for your good comment. Agree that phonics is very important and love your suggestion about the IEP. Interesting about the Cambridge study. No, I hadn't heard about it. You'll be glad to know that more and more schools are moving away from whole word reading and back to phonics.

  3. Thanks for your good comment, Alan. Glad you're overcoming language disabilities. Yes, certainly children need to learn how to read and phonics helps.

  4. I'm all for getting kids to read and think the notion of just audio books is a bad one indeed. However, as a special education teacher working with 6th graders who are mostly mainstreamed I do believe that a place for reading tests aloud does exist. I do not do this with all my students, but read tests to the ones that struggle both with reading fluency and comprehension, specifically vocabulary comprehension. If I am going to test them on the content, I do not think it is fair that their challenged reading "trip" them up in a testing situation. I cannot tell you how many times a kid reads a question and sits there with a confused look on his/her face. As soon as I read the question aloud, they're like "Oh, that's what it's asking!" We are testing their knowledge of content at the time, not their reading. And...I do recommend for some students to read and listen to the audio version of a challenging novel at the same time. I think the audio version can serve as a model and can help them through the more challenging work.

  5. Good Post Dr. Mary Jo,

    As a high school teacher and a LD survivor, I believe reading is a MUST skill for kids to excel in school and when I say reading, I mean full text from which meaning has to be derived not the bits and bytes that we see in modern mediums such as the web.

    Fortunately my eldest daughter is not the reading dullard I was as a kid and it looks as though my youngest will be competent as well. They were fortunate enough to get their mothers looks and brain.

    As for the listening part of your article, I firmly believe that had it not been for my text books being transcribed to audio, I probably would have had a much more difficult time graduating from University. Because of coding difficulties, my reading is painfully slow and the audio books helped immensely BUT I had the maturity to understand that the audio was to be used to help me read the text and understand the content.

    In the case of a child who is having reading difficulties and is given a listening option to help develop their reading skill, more than likely they will choose to listen only. Passively listening is much easier than following the text along with the audio to help develop reading skills. As we all know kids will follow the path of least resistance regardless of the benefits of the more difficult path.

  6. Recently I was tracked down to help an illiterate older adult. He has been trying to learn ever since he was a child - he still can't read past a gr 4 level.

    I have had to teach him how to turn all text into audio. The reality for some with learning disabilities is that no matter how hard they try - for one reason they will never be comfortable with reading. Myself I also have a reading disability - however I can read anything with the computer when it is enlarged or in large print.

    The value of auditory listening can't be denied, but for those without the issue I can see how the old school thought still focuses on focusing on the weaknesses of the learner not the natural gifts they may have learning only by watching, doing and listening. We are all in fact very unique when it come to learning.

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Leslie. I totally agree with you that audio is a wonderful tool for those who have serious reading challenges. But to replace reading with listening for everybody just doesn't make good sense.

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