Struggles with Reading

Reading is a cornerstone for subsequent skills, and it relies mostly on how human memory works. The short-term memory as the name suggests holds only a few items for a very brief period of time. To comprehend a sentence, children must be able to decode it in about 12 seconds. To understand lengthy texts, students must be able to read fluently at about one word per second (about 45–60 words per minute) and with about 95 percent accuracy. This is not an easy task for a beginner.

There are some hurdles that a common student must overcome:  

  1. The publications do not make easy reading; they often have awkward sentences and terminology incomprehensible to students.  So these books should be planned keeping the student’s needs in perspective.
  • Malnutrition and ill health may damage the cognitive processing ability.

A rigorously studied Mexican program paid poor mothers,  a small sum if they kept their children at school and got them immunized. A trial study published in 2001 showed that these children were healthier. Healthier children are more likely to go to school. Providing free uniforms and a simple porridge breakfast increased student attendance in Kenya.

Micronutrient malnutrition is a pervasive and debilitating problem. Iron, Zinc and Iodine deficiency lead to 10- 15 IQ points deficiency.  Iron deficiency significantly affects brain development by age 2; it is widespread, particularly among girls.

Mid-day meal  programs of India, may not mitigate early malnutrition but will drive children to school  because the meal  attracts school children who are chronically hungry.

Efficient Learning suggestions for the students

Teaching is a function widely used even by animals.

Schools essentially must create two skill levels:

  • mastery of certain procedures to the point where they become unconscious and automatic
  • the application of the procedures to structure information and conceptual knowledge is not necessarily a pleasant exercise and many children would prefer other activities. Furthermore, some may be unable to do the tasks at the ages that the curriculum prescribes. It is not surprising, therefore, that teaching can be difficult. In many cases,  children who cannot perform simply drop out.

Cognitive study indicate that connections among neurons create momentary patterns.  Successful patterns expand and recruit other neurons, unsuccessful ones die out. Thus, the most useful memories prevail, as summarized below:

• We recognize faster items we saw recently or see often.

• We build more knowledge on what we see often.

• Rarely used concepts take a long time to recall

• Behaviours executed enough times tend to become automatized.

• Behaviours executed rarely may be forgotten

When do children learn?

When somebody

  • tells them
  • Shows them
  • Corrects them
  • Inspires them
  • Coaches them
  • Rewards them

So a teacher should try to influence the students by incorporating the approaches to imbue the skills in them.

Policy implications

  • “Whole-word” reading methods would make more sense to be introduced. For this, the textbooks should be age appropriate and easy to read.
  • Effective schools, particularly those catering to the poor, must offer students time to learn well the small units.
  • Use the Mid-Day meal to drive students to school.
  • Incorporate learning approaches to teach.

Coming up next: Memory and Basic Skills Acquisition

Published by Dr. Pramila Kudva

I am a teacher educator currently worrking as a Principal of a reputed school in North Mumbai, have more than 30 years of experience, with several publications to my credit and have authored a book -"From chalk to Talk The Art of Teaching.

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