Improving Reading Comprehension Through Dread

June 27, 2014

A father of a sweet 11-year-old girl came in to have her child evaluated this week.  By impression and observations, the girl, Katie, was on the innocent side of life.  She was still in the “Hello Kitty” phase, which was nice to see, given how fast and advanced many kids are that I meet at her age.

Before we started the evaluation, the dad handed me a recent story that the child had to read and answer comprehension questions. In an incredulous tone, the dad said, “Here you go, Doc, let’s see what you make of this one.”

The story was a nonfiction piece called, “Terrorists are Big Bullies,” from edHelper.com.  A comparison between bullying behavior and terrorism was the theme of the selection.

Here’s a quote from the story:

“Terrorists spread out and cover a wide area. They are sneaky. They use the media (radio, TV, Internet) to burst into our homes and businesses. They can threaten a whole nation with a beat down, not just a few students in a single school.

Terrorists are big bullies. They use threats and violence to get what they want. Terrorists aren’t after our lunch money; they want something bigger. It may be a change in how a country is ruled. It may be a change of law. It may be freedom for their friends who have been arrested. Whatever the causes they believe that violence will solve the problem. Innocent adults and children are hurt and even killed by terrorists and the terrorists aren’t sorry.”

To make sure the child comprehended the selection (and I presume to make sure she got the message), here were some of the multiple-choice items:

1.       A bully is to a terrorist as a firecracker is to a ________

A.    nation

B.     firework

C.     bomb

D.    threat

2.      Which one of these is NOT mentioned as a way terrorists enter our homes?

A.    front door

B.     TV

C.     internet

D.    radio

3.      Which one of these could be a weapon of mass destruction?

A.    poison gas

B.     knife

C.     pistol

D.    cell phone

4.      Even under a terrorist attack, we can try to enjoy __________

A.    life

B.     nap time

C.     video games

D.    dessert

Wow!!!!  My breath is taken away.

I can’t imagine how this could improve a child’s reading comprehension. From where I sit, the only gain would be an increase in personal terror, dread and fear in the child.

Whatever happened to the concept of developmental appropriateness (not that I can come up with the appropriate age on this one)?

Well, I guess it’s a boon to the psychiatry business.

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Interview with Fran Sherman – “Stressed out Teen Girls and Cutting”“My Child is in Early Stage I of Reading Development: What Do I Do?”

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