Tools for Reading

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To encourage reluctant readers to read, and to make reading more comfortable and enticing for just about anyone, provide useful tools for the job at hand. Two of the most important of these are: proper lighting, and some way to position one’s book for maximum comfort — both for the eyes and for the body.

I am always on the lookout for such items, and these are some I have found most useful.

Book holders are indispensable for putting print at an angle that will facilitate reading, especially for those who wear bifocals. They are also especially helpful to children whose hands are often too small for most books. I never realized the extent of the stress upon eyes and neck caused by reading a book opened flat upon a table. Furthermore, I have long suffered from fingers and hands that ached after long hours of holding books, and of holding them open. I discovered that the comfort that comes from reading a held, inclined book is greater than I had expected.

It is easy to turn the pages of a book resting on the folding, wooden holder, so I use it when I am reading rapidly and while studying and/or researching. I also use it as I teach, keeping the Saxon math book open and handy, freeing my hands to work problems on the overhead projector or chalkboard. David used this one extensively when homeschooling for it allowed him to more easily read and refer to various parts of a book…flipping pages in search of information…while writing on paper placed in front of the holder.

The blue metal holder is indeed a blessing for it is designed so that the reader can adjust the angle of the book. The page holders can be flipped down to facilitate page turning; the felt glued on the bottom keeps the rack from sliding; the rubber at the base keeps the book from slipping. The design is such that it can hold quite a large book without tipping or toppling. One of the best features of this rack is that it folds to pack in a briefcase or luggage. Unfortunately, these are now very difficult to find. I purchased this one from Levenger, so maybe a few calls to the company would encourage them to again carry this item.

The small wire racks fold flat and are much more sturdy than I had expected them to be. They can hold up to medium sized books, but one must lift the book a bit, although not remove it fully, in order to turn pages. This restrictive feature makes the holder not as reader friendly, but it works well for a book that needs to be kept open at a given spot. I purchased several of these and my students especially like them for math. The book stays open to the page of homework problems, while the child easily changes focus between the page and the homework paper. I paid $5 each for these and I found them at a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The small red item is a page holder and very handy, as well. It is a small plastic dome with a groove for the sheet of paper. It is filled with sand to give it weight and stability. They are available in most office supply stores and the price is usually around $5.

However, as handy and useful as book holders are, the items that will contribute to the most pages being read for the least amount of money invested, especially for children, are clip-on lights. These handy lights come in all shapes and sizes and clip right onto the book. Look for one with a neck that is tall enough to allow pages to be turned without removing the light. If the head of the lamp swivels, teach the child to simply lift and lower the light. The act of turning the head while putting it away eventually twists and breaks the wires going to the bulb.

We keep a clip-on light in the storage areas of every vehicle. We like to read whenever possible, and car rides provide such time. It is bothersome to forget to bring a book, but it is downright disturbing to have night fall, and darkness put an end to reading that might have continued for hours. Clip-on lights solve that problem. Most take 4 AA batteries, and we pack extras for each trip. We also keep one or two clip-ons in the living room for times when poor lighting is preferred for movie viewing, but someone would rather read.

One day we drove one of my high school students, a former non-reader, to Detroit. Robert had been asked to speak before a group of teachers at a workshop being put on by an author who had befriended him. Afterwards we took him to King’s bookstore, a place we like so much that we have even driven the 3 hours to Detroit for the sole purpose of shopping there. Robert, much to his own surprise, found some books that interested him and we bought those for him.

The drive home was long, and darkness came. David and I were reading, as usual. After a bit Robert asked, “Would you have another book light?” I did not, but I was thrilled to give mine to him. I enjoyed spending the remaining time revisiting memories of the steps Robert and I had taken together to bring him to that day — a day when he could borrow a book light so he could read in the dark, during a long drive home from what was, for both of us, a very exciting day.

We never had “lights out” time at our home, for I remember too well the many frustrating nights when I, at the most interesting part of a book, would be forced to put it aside. David had a bedtime, but he was allowed to read as late as he wished. Many times I noticed the light on until wee hours. We had an agreement: we never complained about the light; he never complained about being tired after a night of late reading. Those wonderful opportunities of childhood — when we almost crawl inside a great book to enjoy every page — are best taken advantage of when we are young enough to bounce out of bed the next morning!

Let the kids read until wee hours! Their minds will be all the better for it, and their sleep will be all the more restful without the frustration of having had to put down a good book at an inopportune time.

Lastly, but also serving a very worthwhile purpose, are bookends. I felt the thrill of book ownership when I was given my first set, glass horse heads. I arranged and rearranged my precious although small collection of books. My brother was given bookends with globes that turned on each, and he found those marvelous, as well. Now I have many that are “apples for the teacher” and I keep Murray Rothbard’s books between halves of a heavy oak Corinthian column. Bookends make wonderful gifts — from parents and grandparents, for birthdays and other events. They are items that will provide wonderful returns on the initial investments.

When I taught in a rural school district near Maquoketa, Iowa, the librarian there arranged for every child in the school to be given a brand new book each year. The philosophy held that every child should have the opportunity to feel the pride that book ownership gives. The goal was for children to become more interested in school; in scholarship; in achievement.

It worked. One year the student I served in that district was given a thick book on photography. That turned him on to reading, and he not only learned to read better, he graduated from high school with very good grades; won the Council for Exceptional Children state level award; and went on to graduate with a business degree from the University of Iowa.

Gift children with books and help them build fine personal libraries, but also give some of these tools and so make their reading easier, or just more fun!

Linda Schrock Taylor [send her mail] is an educational consultant, homeschooling mom, and public school special ed teacher. She is available for presentations, inservices, and workshops.

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