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Teaching Older Children to Read: It Takes Longer

written by: Renee Lenaris • edited by: BStone • updated: 1/20/2014

So you are sitting at the local fast food joint, as a 16 year old. You have an application in front of you. Given the constant turnover, you know that if you simply turn this magic piece of paper into the manager on duty, you will be hired. One problem—you can't read. How do you explain this?

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    Reading is an essential skill that everyone must possess to succeed in life. If one lacks this critical skill then life's opportunities Reading are very limited to say the least, if not closed altogether in today's modern age. The younger a child learns this vital skill, the easier academics and life in general will be. The following are some reasons why it takes older children longer to learn to read, thereby stunting their educational growth.

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    The Brain's Reception to Learning

    Research has proven that the time frame from birth to 12 years of age is the prime time for learning absorption. Harry Chugani, a neuroscientist at Wayne University, states the following concerning the brain capacity of young children:

    “The child who learns piano will learn those connections and 20 years later will learn to play the piano again easier than someone who has not studied it."

    Basically what the moral is here, is that the earlier a skill is committed to memory, the more "ruts" are created in the brain, contributing to memory ability. The older the child becomes, the less these ruts are created within the brain. It is much harder to create these ruts when a child's mind and overall body are adjusting so much due to various other changes in life.

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    Social Distractions

    When a child reaches adolescence, friends of both sexes are at the focal point of life for most kids. The need to feel accepted, popular and 'part of the group' takes over in terms of priorities of a child's everyday life. What does this mean as far as the child's ability to learn and retain information in school and at home? It means that distractions consume the child of this age.

    The challenge of keeping up with daily homework, chores, sports commitments, and other activities is enough. If the child can't read at this point, how can he or she do homework? Chances are that if a child has reached high school and still can't read very well, he will be sent to alternative education classes. In this environment he may then associate with others of the same academic level.

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    Incompetent and Inpatient Teachers

    Many schools are cutting back expenses. One way they are doing this involves implementation of furlough days. This results in teachers and administrators increasingly feeling the squeeze to cram more material into less time. The patience and time they have for the child who struggles to read is little or nonexistent. Instead of getting one-on-one attention, the teacher feels the pressure to keep the class moving at a steady pace, leaving many kids behind, especially those with illiteracy issues. Instead of correcting the problem, or providing the child and his or her parents with other options to facilitate reading issues, they simply shove them through the proverbial system. This results in frustrated kids, and their reading issues continue into adulthood.

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    Lack of Parental Support

    The home is the first place help should start for kids who are taking longer to learn to read than others. Sadly, many children who experience problems related to illiteracy do not experience much support at home in terms of reading and learning. These parents are not involved in their kids' lives at all, so their academic success or lack thereof is not an important issue. These kids struggle to read and learn amd become frustrated because they receive no assistance at home.

    There's not much the teacher can do to motivate the parents if they are unwilling to help. However, if parents demonstrate an interest in helping but just don't know what to do, the teacher can provide resources to enhancing at-home study sessions.

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    Practice Makes Perfect

    48120f51em4lwkk A simple reason for why it takes older children longer to learn how to read is that they did not read and practice the discipline when they were younger. Many of today's kids plant themselves in front of the TV or video games at a very early age. The institution of the internet and online games has added another component to this sad equation. Many kids don't read to themselves, each other or their parents. Additionally, many do not practice the art of writing at an early age. This creative aspect to academic success not only wets the appetite for imaginative thinking, but it is vital to success in the skill of reading and advanced literacy levels.

    For these children, it does not matter what they read, as long as they read. Graphic novels or comic books can be a good start, or get a child involved in the first book of a series, such as the Harry Potter or Hunger Games books.

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    The sad epidemic of illiteracy in older children is not easy to talk about. These are theoretically our future leaders and laborers. If we do not address this increasingly disturbing problem, it will not get better, it will get worse. By being aware of the above issues related to why children who are older have more trouble picking up reading skills, we can begin to attack this problem, one child at a time.

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