Monthly Archives: February 2019

The Importance of Visualization for Young Readers

Does your child “make pictures” in his mind when he reads? This is an important question. Why? Because the ability to make mental images – to visualize – makes a difference in whether or not a child enjoys reading, and whether or not he truly comprehends. Let me describe a phenomenon that happened the other day. The moment the light bulb went on for a child.
Most second graders I teach read simple chapter books. But one boy in the class I was subbing for had brought an impressive, thick book from home. A fantasy with a blood red cover. It was silent reading time, and I asked him to read to me, just a bit, to see how he did.  He read very well. Later in the day, he came to my desk wearing a quizzical expression. Something had happened. He said he’d been reading a particular sentence in his book, and all of a sudden his mind saw what the words were saying. All at the same time!
I understood at once what had occurred, and was overjoyed for the boy.   
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I witnessed the same phenomenon years ago, as private reading tutor. A first grader who struggled with reading had begun making progress with phonics. He was pushing through a decodable story I’d written about a little boy and a fireman. After reading the part about the fireman lifting the boy up to the driver’s seat in his fire truck, and letting him steer the wheel, the child, whose name I’ve forgotten, suddenly exclaimed, “I can see it in my mind!”
It’s an incredible moment when a child recognizes his ability to visualize what he’s reading. 
Parents can check to see if their child is “making pictures” in their mind. Have them read to you, nothing too hard. Something with very few pictures. Ask what the characters in the book look like. What does the house, or the scary woods look like? If they don’t know, take out a pencil and pad, and have them make a quick sketch of what it might look like. Or simply ask what a particular phrase looks like to them. A lady in a hat, for example. Have them tell you about the lady and her hat. Is she old? Young? Have floppy hat, or a ski cap? In time, any child’s ability to make mental images can improve. When it happens, you will know. Your child will fall in love with reading. FFG