Do you remember a time when you couldn’t read? Remember when your child 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.



Most of us don’t remember that bumpy journey when we learned to read, and so it can be hard to get a handle on the plight of reluctant readers.

Those of us who love to read are, for the most part, skilled readers. We consume pages with the voracity of a paper shredder. We read with little thought about the mechanics, as our minds are busy processing the story, communing with the characters, and enjoying the plot. Understanding challenges faced by new readers and reluctant readers takes imagination.
Here’s a little challenge that offers a taste of the world from the eyes of a reluctant reader. It is a short conversation, written in English (though with a bit a dialect). Here, give it a read:

Ven Two Alt Gize Meet Oop Nort On Da Lake Fichen*

"Haydair." 

"Lobuddy." 

"Benearlong?" 

"Koplaowers." 

"Crieps, cetchenenny?" 

"Yepgoddafew" 

"Vairdaybitn?" 

"Oberdair" 

"Vatkindarday?" 

"Valleyeennordern." 

"Ennysiztooum?" 

"Cuplapowns." 

"Oofda, bitenard?" 

"Yanohowdeyar." 

"Vahchayoozin? Dalindyrik?" 

"Ohyeahdonchano." 

"Fichenondaboddum?" 

"Rydoopneardaboddum." 

"Howdeeperya?" 

"Bouttvenyfeet." 

"Oh, Vachadrinkin?" 

"Hadacouplabeers." 

"Velleyegoddago." 

"Tubad." 

"Seeyaround." 

"Yeahtakideeze." 

"Guluk." 

"Yoobetcha." 

Da Ent!!!

* I can’t trace the original source of this tale, as it can be found on the Web in several places with slight variations.

Consider the amount of mental effort you had to exert to decode the story. Compare that to the usual energy you devote to reading. See the difference? Reluctant readers are spending copious amounts of metal energy in the decoding process, leaving little for the more pleasurable part of reading.

Reading With Eyes Shut techniques attempt to temporarily reduce the decoding burden, and at the same time add a visualization component. The goal is to give reluctant readers a fuller reading experience; one complete with the pleasure of visualization, even if the reader is still in a learning-to-read phase and struggling with decoding. As the link between reading and pleasure becomes strong, readers become more motivated to read. With practice their decoding skills improve, setting in motion a positive feedback loop that helps reluctant readers become avid readers.

For a sample Reading With Eyes Shut story link to Samuel and the Pirates .
 •  2 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on May 20, 2014 09:10 • 532 views • Tags: kids, reading-with-eyes-shut, reluctant-readers, stories, visualization
Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Gayle (new)

Gayle Swift Wow, I quickly became fatigued and checked out. The effort required outweighed the pleasure/curiosity I felt. This provided an insight to the experience of a struggling reader.
Great post


message 2: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass Great exercise for those of us who can't remember learning to read!


back to top

Reading With Eyes Shut

J.J. Parsons
Reluctant readers may spend so much effort decoding words, that they have no additional mental capacity for imagery. Because decoding is “hard” and without imagery, there is little pleasure in reading ...more
Follow J.J. Parsons's blog with rss.