Ask me anything about Reading With Eyes Shut and Reluctant Readers

Mar 7, 2018

Do you remember a time when you couldn’t read? You were five years old--or maybe four-- and your eyes gazed without comprehension at a page of sticks and circles?

What about the learning-to-read phase when you struggled to sound out words, trying to hear them aloud or in your head; trying to make sense of each word and remember them long enough to assemble meaning from a sentence or paragraph. 

Readers may be “reluctant” for a variety of reasons. Reading With Eyes Shut focuses on one of those; the idea that some readers spend so much mental effort focusing on decoding words that they don’t experience the intrinsic joy of visualizing characters, places, and events. Reluctant readers are missing out on the fantastic worlds that authors help us to create in our minds. 


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What are some of the activities you would suggest to a parent about improving the idea of reading in one’s household?
Mar 9, 9:15AM EST0
What age does a child normally start to learn their ABC's and words?
Mar 9, 3:40AM EST0
What do you use to establish academic progress in your theory?
Mar 8, 7:28AM EST0
How do you see the role of the teacher in the learning process and what are some of your suggestions on how to achieve this role with the obstacles they face?
Mar 8, 2:43AM EST0
What is a word that most children have difficulty saying?
Mar 7, 10:42PM EST0
What book would you recommend for children to start reading from?
Mar 7, 10:21PM EST0
What would you recommend "reluctant" readers who have severe dyslexia?
Mar 7, 8:48PM EST0
What are some of the learning models you use and what do you see as the primary benefits of each to your theory?
Mar 7, 5:03PM EST0
How exactly is learning process personalized within your theory and if a learner is becoming a distraction, how would you adjust for that child while tending to the individual interests of the others in the classroom?
Mar 7, 2:48PM EST0

That would be a question for a classrrom teacher, I think. Perhaps I can get my sister to respond.

Mar 7, 4:35PM EST0

I looked at the example of Reading With Eyes Shut on your website. How does it work?

Mar 7, 1:43PM EST1

The example is from a middle-grade adventure story that I wrote. It is a backstory to Dead Chest Island. Readers can access this story online here

The story is a multimedia reading experience. Readers click the Eyes Shut button and then close their eyes to listen to narrated imagery that helps to set the imagination in gear by creating mental images and helping readers get immersed in the story. There are sound effects, too to enrich the imagery. 

When the imagery is complete, readers open their eyes and read a page of the story. There is word-for-word narration availalble for the storyline and help with "big words."

Continuing to the next page, the narrator again describes images for the Eyes Shut experience before readers continue with the story text. It is a different experience. Try it!

Last edited @ Mar 7, 1:57PM EST.
Mar 7, 1:50PM EST1

Thank you!

Mar 7, 1:51PM EST0
How is education changing in terms of literacy and what are your views on this change?
Mar 7, 10:11AM EST0
What are the most common barriers you have experienced with regard to this theory, and in what ways have you modified your approach to incorporate these?
Mar 7, 6:45AM EST2

Actually, the biggest barrier is spreading the idea to hames and classrooms where it is needed. I work with local schools and libraries, but it is just me. There is not a national organization for Reading With Eyes Shut. There is not much social media devoted to helping reluctant readers. But who knows? Maybe one of you all will become an advocate!

Mar 7, 12:49PM EST1
Is this theory more applicable to teachers or parents and why do you believe this to be so?
Mar 7, 5:59AM EST2

Both teachers and parents should be aware of the incentives, as well as the barriers to reading fluency.  There are many barriers. Sometimes it is a constellation of barriers that disincentivise reluctant readers. Is it necessary to identify them? I'm not sure. Do we have to diagnose the problem before we can fix it? Or can begin to offer the incentives: interesting books, multimedia experiences, books about games, games about books. and I use the term "book" loosely. What we are really talking about is reading stories. They can be in a printed book or on a screen. Doesn't matter. The purpose is to fire the imagination, acquire language skills, develop focus, and expand logical thinking skills.

Mar 7, 10:31AM EST1
What are some of the research methods you have used to prove this hypothesis works practically and not just in theory and where can this research be found?
Mar 7, 3:40AM EST2

Good question. I am not a researcher. The research on reluctant readers, and readers in general, continues to evolve. Most recently there has been a focus on the effect of digital books. One finding is that digital books tend to appeal more to middle school boys than to girls. Couple that with other research findings that indicate more reluctant readers are boys than girls, and we begin to see some basis for the idea that a multimedia experience may be an effective intervention for some reluctant readers. Following the research trail is, perhaps too involved for this discussion. It is fascinating, yet frustrating that the number of below grade-level readers has not decreased.

Mar 7, 10:48AM EST2
What are your suggestions to implement this strategy within the classroom successfully?
Mar 6, 8:12PM EST2

There is at least one research study in which students reported that reading out loud was their scariest middle school experience. In an effort to make reading "social," this type of reading experience may not be such a great idea. Yet, when students are left to their own private reading, reluctant readers may not be making any progress. 

Teachers can help students read with eyes shut. It doesn't mean reading TO students. What it means is supplementing the story with descriptive images and thought questions that help studdents envison settings and characters. The goal is to try to get students to build images and worlds in their minds. That is a powerful activity.

Middle school students are sometimes nervous about shutting their eyes in class. There is a trust thing that is more comfortable in a small group. An alternative to closing their eyes is for students to look at a blank sheet of paper and try to envision the images described by the teacher.

Another technique is to let students create images that supplement the story. They can write these images down, draw pictures, or record verbal descriptions. I've worked with some students who were super enthusiastic about reading descriptions into a computer microphone and then enhancing the audio with sound effects.

Mar 7, 11:01AM EST2
What are your suggestions to implement this strategy within the classroom successfully?
Mar 6, 8:11PM EST2

This question is important, especially because more than one person asked. See my response to JENNIMEZ.

Mar 7, 11:02AM EST2
Do children learn better from hearing the words or seeing the words?
Mar 6, 5:26PM EST2

Reading requires children to see the words. Reading With Eyes Shut has two components. The LISTENING component corresponds to images that are associated with a story. The READING component corresponds to the words that the author has written.

The RWES concept is that children close their eyes and listen to a description of a setting, an event, or a character that relates to the story. The description helps to build mental images. A good descriptor not only relays images, but also asks active questions that help readers build unique images: "It is a moonlight night in a forest. Look up above the trees. How many stars can you see? Are some stars hidden by clouds? Is the forest quiet, or do you hear sounds? Now, lets read the next two pages to find out what is going to happen in this forest."

Mar 7, 11:13AM EST1
How often do you come across the case of reluctance in kids?
Mar 5, 2:28PM EST2

According to stats from the National Assessment of Educational Progress about 30% of 4th grade students in the U.S. read below grade level. The data is summarized here:

Although statistics quantify the problem, they do not show the faces of the children who are not interested in books and get little enjoyment from reading. Among these reluctant readers are children who want to read, but can't get enough practice to become fluent readers. But also there are children who have little desire to commune with stories that require them to use thier imaginations. Movies and video games spoonfeed children with other peoples' imaginative worlds. That may become a replacement for active imagining.

Mar 5, 5:46PM EST1
What in your opinion is the effect on the individual as well as their family of reluctance to read?
Mar 5, 2:28PM EST2

Reading is one of the keys to success. It affects many aspects of achievement, such as test scores, school performance, successful entrace to collge, graduation rates, job opportunities, and lifetime income.

Mar 7, 11:16AM EST2
How would you as an individual categorize yourself? Reluctant or not?
Mar 5, 2:28PM EST2

I am an avid reader. Perhaps that means I've not walked in the reluctant readers' shoes. But what I've tried to do is identify what makes reading an intrinsically beautiful experience. It seems that if parents and educators search for the enchantment in their own reading experiences, we may be able to pass that along to others.

For example, I remember the first book that I held in my hands. It had a red cloth bound hard cover. There was a black and white pen drawing of a tree on the first page. And all these squiggles. Circles and sticks. I knew my shapes by then. With the shakey hand-eye coordination of a 4 year old, I drew some tiny circles and lines in the margin. But what was the meaning of the squiggles in the book? It was a mystery that I needed to solve. What I don't remember is who unlocked the key for me to decipher the squiggles and recognize them as representing the sounds that formed words.

Mar 5, 6:00PM EST2
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