Reading flat on the table makes things worse

Many people will read this title and be perplexed. Think about your own experience of reading, where is the book, newspaper or magazine? When you are relaxed and reading fluently, you normally have the material propped up, so why do most primary schools insist that children who are learning to read have the book flat on the table. I can see the logic when someone is helping you but neuroscience says this isn’t helpful.

This is why: when we look down we are accessing our emotions. If we feel bad about reading this only makes things worse, accessing emotions like “I can’t do this”, “I am stupid”, “this is impossible”, “I’m sad”. When we look up however, we are accessing our visual skills which are vital for reading.

So try the 3 point reading test with the child or student:

1. Try reading aloud when looking down at the material.

2. Prop the book up a bit and repeat

3. Hold the book right up like reading a newspaper and repeat.

Check with the student what the difference is for them and allow them to continue with that position. Once they have built more confidence they will be able to look down a little.

Reading flat on the table is unnatural, puts more unnecessary strain on struggling students, who may find letters being distorted or moving around, especially if they have dyslexic symptoms. Looking down eliminates mental imagery and increases emotions, making matters worse. Reading with work propped up will help increase fluency.

Do respond to this blog with your experiences.

To learn more do take a look at:  The Elephants In The Classroom; uncovering every students’ natural power of mental imagery to enhance learning £14.95. Available on Amazon at

or view  where you will see other resources too.

#neuroscience #mental imagery #reading #emotions #iamsad #confidence #dyslexic

About olivehickmott

I am a Forensic Learning coach, showing people how they can improve their own learning and change their health. Working with creative neurodivergent students is a joy, as they learn new skills to overcome many of their learning challenges.
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