Reading and ADHD

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Did you know that most kids lose some of their reading and math skills over the summer, and that kids with ADD or ADHD may lose even more? I was at our local bookstore this afternoon and noticed a sign saying that they had the required reading lists for school available. More and more schools are joining this trend of requiring students to read a designated book over the summer in an effort to help maintain reading levels.

Often kids with ADD complain that when they get to the bottom of a page, they can’t remember what they’ve just read. If that’s the case with your child, there are a few things you can try to help. In general, the more senses you engage, the more likely it is that you will retain what you’re reading. Look for the book on tape, or see if it is online. Sometimes you can find older books in online libraries, or you can purchase books in digital form from sources online.

The advantage of having a book on your computer is that you can use your computer’s built-in software to listen to the book being read, much like a book on tape. As far as I know, all versions of Windows have this capability, and I’m sure Macs do too. I have Windows XP on my computer. If I click on Start > All Programs > Accessories > Accessibility > Narrator, it activates a program that will read whatever is on my screen. You can also find narration programs online for purchase or for free. Search for text to speech software.

If neither of those options are available, you can always make a tape yourself for your child to use. Record a little at a time, just ahead of what they are reading.

Your child may also find it helpful to listen to the tape by itself sometimes, without the work of trying to read along. Playing it while you’re in the car is a good idea, especially if you’ve got a lot of driving to do.

Your child might also find it helpful to add video to the experience, especially if this is a book they are reading for school. I personally find a book more difficult to read once I’ve seen the movie, so you’ll have to use your judgment on this. You might want to wait until the book has been finished and then show the video, or if you can, you can watch it a little at a time as you read the book. I had a college professor who did this when we were reading Shakespeare, and it made a big difference in understanding for me.

Another option, depending on the book, is to look for variations or common themes in other places. For instance, “Romeo and Juliet” has been redone a number of times – “West Side Story” and “Grease” come to mind. And “The Taming of the Shrew” turned into “10 Things I Hate About You”. There are others, and if you can find one that relates to what your child is reading, it may help with comprehension as well as retention.

Sometimes schools choose books that are just a chore to get through for one reason or another. If that’s the case (or even if it isn’t), study guides can be a big help. There are the traditional Cliff Notes, available in bookstores, or you can find a number of sources online. One of my favorites is Sparknotes. The site was created by Harvard students, and is one of the most popular study guides online. It offers a wealth of information on a wide variety of books, and it’s reliable.

Start a book club. Yours is not the only child reading this book for the summer. Get some of your child’s friends together (get the moms on board first – they’ll most likely jump at the chance) and meet once a week to read together or discuss what they’ve read. An adult or two will need to lead and moderate. Make it fun so they’ll be willing to come back the following week.

My final suggestion is to broaden the experience of what your child is reading. This may not be applicable to every book, but with a little creativity, it can apply to most. For instance, if your child is reading a book set in another time period or another place, find ways to help them get a deeper experience of that. Go to a museum relevant to the time period, check out a picture book from the library or find movies set in that time or place. Look online for pictures that are pertinent, visit an antiques store, listen to music or language from the country in question, or try some foods that the characters might eat. Experiencing these kinds of things helps your child immerse himself more fully into the book, making it more memorable and thereby increasing comprehension.

If you have a child with a summer reading assignment, I hope that these tips will help. And if your child is assignment free for the summer, see if you can’t get them interested in reading something just for the fun of it. Not much is better than the joy of a good book.

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Lacy Estelle

Lacy Estelle is the writer of and the Podcast host for An ADD Woman.

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