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Back Helping Your Child Succeed High school students must develop good reading habits to achieve academic success

High school students must develop good reading habits to achieve academic success

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MANY high school freshmen discover that there are significantly more reading assignments in high school than there were in middle school, and students frequently complain that they cannot get through all of them.

These students’ inability to complete the required reading is primarily due to the bad reading habits they have developed over the years. Below are seven suggestions parents can give their children to help them replace their bad reading habits with good ones:

  1. Keep lips still. Moving lips slows reading down to a fast talking rate. To break this habit, have your child place three fingers on his or her lips or put a pencil between his or her teeth to stop the motion.
  2. Stop vocalizing. Vocalizing means pronouncing words in the throat without making sounds while reading. This slows the reading rate to that of speaking. To check for vocalization, have your child place his or her fingertips on the vocal cord area of the throat. If there is any vibrating, humming or tongue moving, then there is vocalization. Vocalization is sometimes used to intentionally slow down the reading process for especially difficult material. In general, however, it is a waste of time.
  3. Eliminate sub-vocalizing. Sub-vocalizing is saying words in the mind, at the same rate as reading out loud, while reading silently. This also slows down the reading process. One way to stop sub-vocalizing is to increase the rate at which the eyes move across the page to the point where it is impossible to sub-vocalize. This means noticing and reading groups of words at each eye resting point. Your child will still understand what s/he is reading, but in a different way. When using this strategy, some people may even think that they are not really reading because they erroneously believe that the definition of reading is to look at every word and sound it out in the mind.
  4. Stop regressing. Regressing means rereading a word, phrase, or sentence out of habit and not because of need. Sometimes, regression is needed in order to understand difficult material. Often, however, it is an unnecessary and inefficient habit which slows down the reader. Have your child use a card or paper to cover the text after he/she has read it to prevent regressing.
  5. Read at different speeds. When reading, have your child base his or her reading rate on the purpose for reading and the difficulty level of the material. Have him or her practice adjusting the rate to suit the material. The more difficult the material is, the slower the rate.
  6. Read in phrases. Slow readers read one word at a time. Good readers read in phrases. Reading in idea-phrases speeds the reading and improves comprehension. Have your child mark the phrases in the sentences of a passage, and then practice seeing more than one word at a time.
  7. Read with a purpose. Before beginning a reading assignment, make sure your child has clear idea of what she or he needs to learn, what comprehension level is required, and how long the assignment should take to complete.

Changing your children’s reading habits will not be easy. After all, they have been reading that way for many years. It will take several weeks of conscious effort in order to change the bad reading habits, and to develop new ones.

Elizabeth Hamilton, M.E., MA, is a teacher with 25 years of professional experience. You can write to her at successfullearner[at] with your questions or comments.

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