Early Days in the Reading Homework Trenches

Published Categorised as Brain Health, Brain Power, Health, Personal

Another reading observation stint. This time an easier article, my neurodoc assured me. The Wall Street Journal piece he handed me was on Rosetta, the European Space Agency’s mission probe to a comet, and her findings. (Aren’t ships, even space ships all female? They do have to be smart and strong, able to ride the rough waves, endure eons of alone-ness. But I digress.)

He told me to use what has worked so far: milk the title and use my finger to guide my reading s-l-o-w-l-y. But he also wanted me to take a leaf from what people with ADD do: build a skeleton to hang the meaning onto.

To create the skeleton, I was to milk the title, look at the photo, read the first paragraph, and summarize it all. Then I would have some idea of what the piece was about. Once I had an idea, then I was to read the piece, using the skeleton to help me comprehend the words.

So I did that. At the end of the first paragraph, I told him what the WSJ article was about. I also told him I follow Rosetta on Twitter, so I am quite familiar with her journey and the photograph of the comet.

Good! he said. Now read.

He’s so bossy, in an encouraging, kind way.

I found my eyes would read ahead of my finger, and I would have to force myself to read the words only when my finger was under them. I could really feel the effort of building up the picture when I read slowly, of gathering up chips of meaning as I went along and hanging onto them. I read out loud as usual. But I didn’t repeat much, maybe a couple of times.

Ramryge angels at Gloucester Cathedral, England

Brain injury grief is

extraordinary grief

research proves

needs healing.

I stopped abruptly. Unlike last time, I was further along, about halfway through. It helped that the article was shorter with shorter paragraphs. But my chest was heavy from fatigue. I couldn’t continue.

My neurodoc was unfazed. He thought I did great — better than last week. No way! Yes, he insisted. But I only did my homework one day last week. Well, that was enough to effect improvement, he stated. And then he said, do it three times this week.

What?! Three times?!!!

I’m going to be napping a lot, I groaned. I also felt like it was an impossible task; felt this whole thing was futile, that I’m not going to progress. I’m stuck in this place of strategies and reading like a six year old.

My neurodoc wasn’t about to allow his positivity to be dimmed by my fatigue — negativity, as he put it. He reminded me I had asked him to help me work on my reading. I reminded him I told him I needed him to take the initiative in my reading and in encouraging me to read.

He repeated I had improved in only one week. He chuffed me along to seeing three times as doable.

I said the article was more interesting, being on Rosetta instead of on spending in a recession and the American view. He wrote “interesting” down as important. I added: I was familiar with the subject too. He had noted when I reread something, I do better. This was a variation on that theme: reread or read something I already know.

As usual, I took the article home to read. I finished it for my first homework stint, reading silently with my lips moving occasionally (unusual for me), and rested for two hours afterward though I didn’t doze like last time.

I began the same way as I had in my neurodoc’s office, with creating the skeleton. You would think that would be easy, but by the time I finished reading the first paragraph and began checking my recall against the title, sub-head, and first paragraph, I was already developing a headache.

I read for 12 minutes total. I paused between each paragraph. I used my finger, but my eyes kept zipping on past it. I had to pull them back to where my finger was. I read faster than last time but began slowing down after paragraph 3, which was about when my headache began worsening.

I had fewer repeats, none in the first five paragraphs (all of which were between 30 and 57 words, much shorter than last week’s assigned reading). I had two repeats in the 6th paragraph, five in the 7th and final paragraph. I had to return to previous paragraphs to reread facts or names when reading paragraphs 2, 3, 5, and 7.

I was glad to be done with the article. My forehead hurt like hell. Thankfully headaches from reading recede quickly once I stop.

So the lesson is:

1. Practice works.
2. Shorter articles with shorter paragraphs are easier to read.
3. Reading on a subject I’m familiar with is easier than reading something new or something I don’t know well.
4. Interest level makes a diff.
5. A skeleton may or may not work for comprehension, but it boosted my confidence in feeling like I knew what was going on as I began to read.

I need more coffee.

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