Most studies of intelligence are carried out with young people. Recently, there has been growing interest in how intelligence develops, or fails to develop, over the course of a lifetime. The better the fit between an individual’s spectrum of intelligences and the domain (or vocation) of knowledge, the more likely that intellectual growth will continue through the adult years.
Howard Gardner, psychologist and founder of the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, states, “Since each human being has her own unique configuration of intelligences, we should take that into account when teaching, mentoring or nurturing. As much as possible, we should teach individuals in ways that they can learn.”
The MI theory encompasses eight distinct ways that individuals best learn, from spatial to naturalistic. With increasing class sizes and standardized testing, it’s easy to visualize how difficult individualized instruction of students has been for elementary and secondary schools for many years.
Taking a look at why students are non-readers in their early school also helps to answer the question.
Educator Louanne Johnson works with reluctant elementary and secondary school readers and states, “I worked hard to convince those students that reading was a skill, not a natural-born talent, and that they were capable of learning. I offered the analogies of basketball, since many of the boys were NBA hopefuls — ‘You can’t sink a free throw if you never get on the court’.”
Johnson outlines ten key reasons student nonreaders don’t read – thus inhibiting their reading development into their adult years.
1. Reading Gives Them a Headache or Makes Their Eyes Hurt
Recent research suggests that nearly half of people who are labeled as learning disabled actually suffer from scotopic (light) sensitivity. Often schools mislabel scotopic readers as dyslexic (they may or may not suffer from dyslexia, as well) and give strategies that don’t work, because the glare and discomfort remain. (To learn more about vision therapy for problem readers, visit covd.org.)
2. They Can’t Read as Fast as Their Peers (and Get Left Behind)
One first grader I worked with, Kayla, was in such a hurry to read everything quickly that she wasn’t processing anything. When I asked her to slow down and read one sentence, then tell me what it said, she was fine. But when I let her read without interruption, she began racing along, stumbling over words, and was unable to answer basic questions about what she had read. “Why are you reading so fast?” I asked her. She sighed. “Because I have to go fast. That’s how we do it at school.”
3. They Fear They’ll Have to Read Out Loud and Others Will Laugh
Some teachers call on students to read aloud as a way of keeping them awake or alert in class. Shy or timid students never volunteer and fail to develop this skill.
4. They Expect to Be Tested on What They Read — and to Fail the Test
Students learn to see reading as a chore, a competition, or a test.
5. They Believe They Have to Finish Every Reading Selection, No Matter How Long or Difficult
Forcing kids who don’t read well to finish material that is far above their ability level or that has no relevance to them can ruin reading for them.
6. They Fear Their Opinions Will Be Wrong
Teachers often ask students to write their opinion about a book or story. A student who has worked hard on his or her essays expects high marks for effort and content. When their teacher assigns either a D or an F, the student is sent a clear message: Your opinion is worthless.
7. They Always Get Put Into the “Slow” Group, Which Makes Them Feel Stupid
When I ask adults how old they were when they formed their opinions of their own intelligence, nearly all agree that they decided how smart they were during the first few years of school, when they were learning to read.
8. They Believe They Are Too Far Behind to Ever Catch Up
When students read below grade level, they don’t understand that increasing their skills to the next level isn’t as hard as they think. A grade level in reading doesn’t correspond to a calendar year. It is just a measure of how well a student reads a specific level of complexity in vocabulary and sentence structure.
9. They Have No Interest in the Material They Are Required to Read
Textbooks by definition are not interesting!
10. They Get Lost and Can’t Remember What They Have Just Read
Many struggling students who can technically read quite well don’t understand what they are reading. They somehow missed the important point that when we read we must create a mental reference. Without that reference, words are just words.
As Howard Gardner notes, most studies of intelligence are carried out with young people. But recently, there has been growing interest in how intelligence develops, or fails to develop, over the course of a lifetime.
The better the fit between an individual’s spectrum of intelligences, he says, and their domain (or vocation) of knowledge, the more likely that intellectual growth will continue through the adult years.
Literacy KC works in small, individualized groups with adult students to help make this intellectual growth and potential possible by improving (at last) their reading and writing skills.