March 18, 2011

The Real Reason Struggling Readers Get Tired of Trying

Tags: Teaching Reading Tips

For our Reading Horizons Book Club we have been reading: How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie. While reading it, this statistic sent me into a thinking frenzy: "mental work can’t make you tired.  The brain can work as well and as swiftly at the end of eight or even twelve hours of effort as at the beginning, the brain is utterly tireless." (pg. 202) Wait, what? If you’re anything like me, you feel like your brain does get tired after using it for extended periods of time.

Carnegie goes on to explain what it is that really makes us feel like our brains are tired: “most of our fatigue comes from our mental and emotional attitudes. Dr. A. A. Drill declared: ‘100% of the fatigue of the sedentary worker in good health is due to psychological factors, by which we mean emotional factors.’ We get tired because our emotions produce nervous tensions in the body.” (pg. 203)

I couldn’t help myself but to apply that to struggling readers (and struggling students in general). If simply using their brain to read doesn’t tire their mind; why then, when struggling readers are practicing reading do they say they are tired after awhile? Why do they want to stop trying? According to the statistic presented by Carnegie, struggling readers get tired when reading because they are frustrated with themselves, they are worried they will never understand, or they are being weighed down by another emotional problem while trying to read.

A lot of times struggling readers don't have to feel frustrated. If struggling readers are taught with interactive, explicit phonics instruction, they will have a much easier time learning to read. If you work with struggling readers, teach them in a way that will prevent them from feeling frustrated or worried.

Learn how the Reading Horizons elementary reading curriculum and reading intervention program decrease student frustration as they learn to read. 


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Dr. J said

This was a very interesting topic and post. How was this information and/or the statistics obtained? Did they conduct some sort of f-MRI or brain scan to determine the capacity of the brain? I have never heard of the incredible "stamina" of the brain like this... Neuroscience is such an amazing subject! Thanks for sharing-

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angela said

I wondered the same thing, the book simply presented that fact and didn't explain how they reached that conclusion. I tried to find more info but aside from what was written in that book I didn't find anything. But it is a very interesting concept (if in fact the research was sound). With my intrigue in that concept I've talked to a few people about it and after discussing it it's always agreed that it makes sense that is the emotional troubles that tire our minds and not our mental work- but that's as close to confirming evidence as I have found.

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Laurie said

Indeed, let's see the research. My personal experience in working with struggling readers, using a multisensory, strutured phonics approach, in a 1:1 setting, shows every individual reaching maximum capacity for input and integration of new information to be 45-60 minutes. They are not frustrated, nor are they "worried they will never understand," since they are understanding new concepts quite readily. They are exhausted from the mental effort required to actively engage in changing the wiring in their brains. Where is the research to support Mr. Carnegie's theory?

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Jason said

I have to say this article made me cry. The reason, is that when I read and I find myself getting sleepy or my eyes are getting heavy, the first thoughts in my head are, " this too much" I wont retain any of this, I wish I could write s book, there is so much info, what if I don't get it? Etc. Crazy! So it's an unconscious response. If you struggle or have been struggling reading for a long time, you have just trained your mind to associate struggle with reading! Even writing this is making me tired because as I'm writing this, I'm emotionally getting involved of what I'm trying to convey in hoping that whoever reads this will understand what I'm trying to say. Dale Carnegie is right, people who struggle reading understanding of comprehending are caused by psychological and emotional factors.

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