Blog Post

Reading with Purpose: What Do Kids Really Want to Get Out of Their Reading?

November 12, 2018

Reading with Purpose: What Do Kids Really Want to Get Out of Their Reading?

Children read not just for information or fun, but also with social-emotional purposes

By Diana Black and Darren Cambridge

Our goal at Mia Learning is to help grow motivated and purposeful readers. To get better at it, over the last few months we have been trying to better understand the purposes for which children read. We’ve worked with our Literacy Experts Taskforce—generating a list of 20 key purposes—and immersed ourselves in the relevant research literature. Most recently, Diana interviewed 13 children, ages 7-13, about their purposes for reading.

20 Reasons Children Read

  1. Immersion: lose themselves in new worlds, etc.
  2. Get smarter
  3. Make parents proud
  4. Teachers/parents force them to
  5. Explore questions that intrigue them
  6. Find new interests
  7. To talk about the book with others
  8. Learn new things
  9. Develop new skills
  10. Understand themselves better
  11. For problem solving purposes
  12. Have fun
  13. Deepen expertise
  14. Expand on existing interests
  15. Understand others better
  16. For inspiration of some sort
  17. Get a good laugh
  18. Entertainment more generally
  19. Sense of belonging/to fit in
  20. Achieve a desired mood (scared, uplifted, etc.).

One of the most thorough scholarly examinations of the role of purpose in reading is Literacy Beyond Text Comprehension: A Theory of Purposeful Reading (2017), by Anne M. Britt, Jean-François Rouet, and Amanda Durik. Reading, they argue, is a form of problem solving. Readers decide what, when, how, and how much to read based on what they believe will be the most effective solution to their given problem and its context. The contexts that receive the most attention in this particular book are schools and workplaces, wherein readers are assigned tasks that reading can help them complete. It is therefore unsurprising that the problem readers set out to solve is most typically a lack of information.

And it’s true that several of children we interviewed said they read to gain information, although their focus was on information-seeking related to their individual interests rather than assigned tasks. Sara, age 8, had a deep desire to understand the lives of others, making her a voracious reader of biographies. Reading deeply enough to understand not just isolated facts, but full life stories, and widely enough to experience a variety of such narratives make it possible for Sara to say that “books teach me a lot,” in a way that “is actually very fun.”

Aspiring fiction writer August, age 11, on the other hand, often reads for the practical purpose of improving his craft. Solving his problem requires focusing not just on the content of the text, but also on how it is written. He not only enjoys well-written books for their own sake; he also observes their characteristics closely, trying to decipher how the authors accomplish what they do so that he can emulate them.

However, our interviews suggest a more multifaceted understanding of the problems children read to solve when they read on their own initiative. In many cases, young readers were more focused on solving problems of identity and relationships they were on seeking information. Their challenges are social and emotional.

In Every Kid A Super Reader (2015), Ernest Morrell and Pam Allyn propose seven social-emotional “strengths,” valuable both in reading and throughout life. (See box.) The strengths have a recursive relationship with reading: cultivating them helps make more powerful readers, and reading is a powerful means for cultivating them. Children we interviewed talked about several of these strengths.

Maggie, who recently turned 13, discussed reading for bravery and belonging. She favors realistic fiction with protagonists close to her age because she’s seeking inspiration. She wants to read about characters not terribly unlike herself who exhibit bravery and stand up for what’s right, battling tirelessly against all sorts of injustices. Much of her reading shares a theme of liberation, and the characters she gravitates to model the fiercely righteous behavior she’d like to echo, giving her scripts and schemas for what to do and say in similar situations. Books help her to navigate not only the murky social waters of her early teens, but also a national climate rife with hostility and frightening headlines.

Maggie also reads, like so many adults do, for a kind of emotional reassurance – “to feel like I’m not the only one feeling certain things,” as she eloquently put it. Reading fosters a feeling of belonging, reminding us that despite the loneliness of our private consciousness, we are not alone. We can feel more connected to other human beings reading with such a purpose in mind.

At times, children read to build and strengthen relationships not just to humanity writ large, but to particular individuals. They read for friendship. Sara, daughter of two music/theater professionals, reads about those fields and related topics not so much to expand her knowledge as to feel closer to her family. Sara has taken it upon herself to read about the performing arts and enjoys using poetry and Shakespeare books to improve her own acting chops as part of her trusting relationship with her parents. (Similarly, in her #secretcodebook video, Dr. Susan Brown talks about the role a book played in strengthening her childhood relationship with her cousin.)

The Seven Strengths
(from Morrell and Allyn)Belonging: Identifying as a valued, represented member of a larger community

Curiosity: Fostering a willingness to explore new territory and test new theories

Friendship: Having close, trusting relationships and personal connections to others—learning to interact in positive, productive ways

Kindness: Being compassionate toward others, expressing tenderness that has an impact, near and far

Confidence: Thinking independently and
expressing ideas with assurance

Courage: Having the strength to do something that you hope is right, even though it may be difficult

Hope: Thinking optimistically and believing that today’s efforts will produce good things in the future for yourself and the world

Children also read to build hope. Maggie describes re-reading books “to cheer up,” to give herself hope, when she feels defeated. Ella, 10, notes that a certain book can almost guarantee such a desired emotional outcome or mood. The richly developed narrative in such books provide the resources to consistently solve the problem of a lack of hope. August likes to re-read graphic novels because there are always “details to appreciate I might have missed the first time.” The high level of detail makes reading the book valuable even as the context creating emotional needs changes over time. Achieving the same results would be difficult through the strategic, shallow reading of collections of shorter texts—often well suited to meeting needs for information—is much more difficult.

As with any framework, the information-seeking model that Literacy Beyond Text Comprehension prioritizes is limited, and does not always match with children’s purposes for reading. However, we find their problem-solving prism valuable because it helps us get beyond surface explanations of intentions to examine the underlying value. It invites us to ask not just, “what is this child trying to do here?” but also, “What problem are they doing it to solve?”

For example, in interviews, several children mentioned selecting certain books with the express aim of obtaining “new, higher reading levels” in school. But what problem does reaching higher reading levels solve? We want Mia to offer quite different coaching when the underlying problem is, “My teacher doesn’t believe I’m a good reader” than when it is “I want to be able to read the harder books on a topic in which I’m deeply interested.”

We (including Mia) would need a deeper understanding of the context in which each child reads—such as about their intentions, interests, attitudes, and relationships—to distinguish between the two underlying problems. One of the key challenges for Mia Learning going forward is helping children reflect on their reading in context and helping Mia learn from those conversations to offer better recommendations and coaching.


Britt, M.A., Rouet, J., & Durik, A.M. (2017). Literacy beyond text comprehension: A theory of purposeful reading. New York: Routledge.

Morrell, E. & Allyn, P. (2015). Every child a super reader: 7 strengths to open a world of possible. New York: Scholastic.

Blog Post, Book Recommendation, Uncategorized

#FridayFive: November 9th, 2018

November 9, 2018

#FridayFive: November 9th, 2018

We’re back with another list of five recent releases worth your child’s (and your) time! This week ranges from biographies to graphic novels and nonfiction. If you missed any of the previous weeks’ lists, including graphic novel biographies of women and graphic memoirs by women, go to our blog archives for more recommendations by Mia and her staff.

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library

Carole Boston Weatherford, ill. Eric Velasquez

If your child reads just one picture book biography this year, let it be this one. Arturo Schomburg isn’t a household name, but after finishing this extraordinary title, we think perhaps it should be. An Afro-Puerto Rican bibliophile and incredible self-taught scholar, Schomburg personally assembled what is now considered the world’s foremost collection of black excellence in the forms of books, art, music, and ephemera, aiming to debunk claims of racial inferiority. His superb life’s work is housed today in the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library. Why is this book important? It will make kids think about how history is made, shaped, and reshaped, encouraging them to question the narratives they encounter in school, in the media they consume, and elsewhere, and to think critically.


Lorena Alvarez

Spooky, gorgeous, and awash in atmosphere, this graphic short story may surprise you given the undeniable, Studio Ghibli-style cuteness of its protagonist and her artwork. Bright, inquisitive Sandy attends a strict Catholic school, where hypercritical nuns’ eyes constantly scan students to find fault, but all she wants to do is draw. Her mother is distracted and her dreams are filled with spectacular images that she puts down on paper upon waking. When a mysteries new classmate named Morfie takes an interest in Sandy and her talents, is something more sinister afoot? Best for older readers given the frightening qualities of the story.

Back from the Brink: Saving Animals from Extinction

Nancy F. Castaldo

When an animal is removed from the Endangered Species list, how exactly has that been accomplished? Castaldo provides detailed answers for kids who love animals and want to protect them, giving case studies of more than ten different species and speaking with the scientists committed to saving them. Side panels in the shape of spiral notebook pages are used to direct kids who’d like to help more to resources, give special anecdotes, and make other worthwhile side meanderings.

One Day a Dot: The Story of You, the Universe, and Everything

Ian Lendler, ill. Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb

Cosmology and evolutionary biology are not exactly kid’s stuff, yet Lendler and his collaborators have managed to make both comprehensible to young elementary aged children without grossly oversimplifying the science. With a handy timeline at the back, lively and appealing earth-toned illustrations, and commendably clear language, readers can get a feel for how the planet came to be and how human beings came to be as well. A kind of kid’s primer before A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, this one’s a well-crafted winner that curious minds will love.

Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World

Vashti Harrison

A follow-up to Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, Harrison’s focus here has shifted to women of all races and nations, with 40 profiles of scientists, artists, and more. Few names will already ring a bell with readers (Marie Curie and Frida Kahlo might), but that’s one of the best things about the book. With a glossary of key terms, this makes an excellent gateway book to more detailed biographies, although the uniformity of Harrison’s illustrative style is more of a hindrance than a help – why should such accomplished, bold women keep their gaze downcast? Still, this is a minor gripe with an inspiring volume.

Blog Post, Uncategorized

The Kindred Philosophies of Mia Learning and Public Libraries

October 5, 2018

The Kindred Philosophies of Mia Learning and Public Libraries

by Diana Black

Previously, we wrote about the many reasons why Mia is indebted and also complementary to librarians and libraries – for instance, how much of the metadata she uses is first created by them and how she points kids in their direction for guidance, mentorship, and to find their home away from home. Yet to discuss, however, are some subtler ways in which the philosophies of public libraries and Mia Learning align. Although unlike public libraries, our services are not free, we believe our work is consonant with theirs in several respects. Members of our staff have professional backgrounds in public libraries, so we feel confident that we know a thing or two about what libraries stand and strive for.

Last year, the American Library Association (ALA) revised its strategic initiatives to include a new direction prioritizing “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.” Each of those three is also key to Mia Learning. As Reading Specialist Leigh Ellis Beauchamp attested in a guest blog post back in August, Mia has unique potential to meet the challenge of making reading more equitable, accessible, and inclusive for disadvantaged and marginalized children. Mia can provide the invaluable support that is so often difficult to access in underserved communities. Mia also recommends books that help broaden kids’ interests — including by exposing them to books written from different identity perspectives and by “own voice” authors (for a definition of this term, see our interview with Rowan Walker). With her guidance, they do not just stick slavishly to their stated preferences: she shows them how they can connect existing tastes, hobbies, and perspectives to new and exciting possibilities.

In a further effort to give kids who use our software the opportunity to empathize with others both similar to and different from themselves, we designed Mia’s appearance and cast the live action actors who portray her protégés to create a diverse group to which we hope all kids can connect. It’s more than just window dressing: We’ve worked hard to make sure the characters are authentic and their stories nuanced. We believe visibility and representation are a small but vital step toward a more equitable society, and want to give every child the chance to find joy in their reading in community with others. In addition, we look forward to expanding our partnership with Book Trust, a wonderful non-profit that gives kids in low-income schools the opportunity to choose books for their personal libraries each month. With their help, we want to offer Mia subscriptions free to students they serve.

Another key value that public libraries share with Mia is using technology alongside traditional print books to maximize the value. As long as we can remember, every couple of months yields another newspaper or magazine opinion piece announced the imminent “death of libraries,” saying that Americans don’t read anymore, claiming libraries are “irrelevant” or “obsolete.” Yet libraries have proven time and time again that they are not one trick ponies. In fact, they are only increasing in relevance and utility when it comes to technology – whether providing computers where job seekers can apply for work, showing patrons how to use devices, hosting maker spaces, or offering subscriptions to digital media services like OverDrive and Hoopla. Mia Learning, too, considers print books at the heart of its endeavors, but it is no accident that Mia helps kids find those titles through an Web application. Just as they can log on to their library accounts no matter the hour, kids can talk to Mia any time. Mia can help kids access ebooks and audiobooks, but she specializes in getting physical copies of books into kids’ hands and onto their bookshelves. Essentially, she is complementing the access to print offered by local libraries with motivating, efficient, and highly personalized opportunities for book ownership.

Finally, libraries exist in part to help us understand ourselves and others better, to broaden our minds and widen the scope of our knowledge and, hopefully, compassion. As author Libba Bray writes, “The library card is a passport to wonders and miracles, glimpses into other lives, religions, experiences, the hopes and dreams and strivings of ALL human beings, and it is this passport that opens our eyes and hearts to the world beyond our front doors, that is one of our best hopes against tyranny, xenophobia, hopelessness, despair, anarchy, and ignorance.” Holdings of every type and genre, from innumerable authors and artists, help make libraries the treasure troves they are, but they are also hotbeds of democracy and discussions. They are social spaces inclusive of the entire local community they serve, a contact zone and place to meet, mingle, and learn.

Like many a great librarian before her, Mia is dedicated to her mission: helping kids to find their newest favorite book: a book that allows them to imagine new possibilities and make new connections, a book that keeps them coming back for more.


Blog Post

How Mia Learns Kids’ Interests

September 21, 2018

How Mia Learns Kids’ Interests

Conversational AI through Natural Language Understanding, Machine Learning, and Open Learner Models

By Darren Cambridge

When making book recommendations, Mia looks carefully at each child’s interests. There are good reasons for that: Reading comprehension increases when young people read books that interest them, and having a clear understanding of their interests increases their psychological well-being and sense of purpose.

But how does Mia know what a child’s interests are? Most reading software, if it considers interests at all, simply asks readers to select broad topics or genres from pre-determined lists. At Mia Learning, we treat interests as both broader and more nuanced. They are broader in the sense that they include not only interest general themes or topics of books, but also characteristics such as the type of characters they contain or the writing style used by the author. They are more nuanced in the sense that they include finer-grained topics.

Mia can’t ask a child to pick from a list. That would be a crazy-boring, hour-long conversation, at least. Capturing interests effectively requires a more sophisticated approach. Mia uses two sources of information: what kids say and what they do. Just as a teacher, librarian, or parent would, she listens and observes. However, since she relies on artificial intelligence (AI), these two activities take different forms.

Understanding what kids say about their interests

The first conversation kids have with Secret Agent Mia is the Briefing. Mia asks the children about themselves as readers, building a casefile for each child that she will then use to full her mission of finding great books on their behalf. One of the first questions Mia asks is what interests them: What do they love to read, read about, or learn about? A child might say something like:

“I’m really interested in horses, and Quasimodo amphipod, because Ms. Hare told me about them, and also, I usually love books that make me and my friends laugh.”

To understand this statement, Mia needs to parse and identify key phrases that are interest clues, such as “horses” and “make me and my friends laugh.” She then needs to determine which of the large set of topics, genres, and book characteristics she knows about they express. Here, “horses” suggests the child may be interested in books about “animals.” It may also suggests the child might be interested in “animal fantasies,” a genre in which horses are frequently featured. “Make me and my friends laugh” may suggest a preference for books with a “funny tone” and for “humorous stories” that are focused on making the reader laugh.

These terms are part of the set that professional librarians used to classify books in Mia’s database. They arrange the terms in a hierarchy, so that Mia knows “horses” are a type of “animal.” To identify these key phrases and make the associations, Mia uses what natural language understanding (NLU) engineers call Named Entity Recognition (NER). NER is a process through which software determines that phrases within a text indicate a reference to certain type of thing, or entity. For example, the phrase “horses” refers to the entity “animals.” The simplest way to identify a named entity is to search for verbatim matches between a predetermined set of words or phrases that are reference terms for the categories, or words or phrases that mean basically the same thing, called either paraphrases or synonyms. Mia tries this first.

Because horses are a common type of animal, frequently featured in children’s books, “horse,” is a reference term within the Animals entity, and a variety of ways of saying it—e.g., “animals you ride,” “ponies,” and “stallions”—are paraphrases. The system also automatically takes into account differences in number (“horses” is equivalent to “horse”) and verb tense (“made” is equivalent to “make”). Mia Learning worked with a former Google engineer to develop software to crowdsource the list of paraphrases kids might use, which our content experts refined and our engineers enhanced through adding semantically-similar words from general purpose lexical databases.

This approach, which computer scientists have been using for decades, is limited. For example, the Quasimodo amphipod is a type of insect discovered just this year. Given that it was coined so recently, it’s not surprising that the phrase “Quasimodo amphipod” is not a reference term or synonym listed within the “animals” entity. Generating and maintaining an exhaustive list of every possible animal and every possible way to refer to it would be a Sisyphean task. Mia needs to have a sense of what the names of animals look like in general, not just to know many such names.

The title of the broader, but still quite obscure category of “amphipod” might be a term on Mia’s list, but she also needs to be able to understand that in this instance, “Quasimodo” refers to a specific type of amphipod rather than the hunchback character from Hugo’s famous novel. Similarly, she needs to know “Hare” refers to a person, not a rabbit. In other words, Mia needs to be able to recognize phrases as instances of entities based on the context of the child’s larger statement about interests.

To enable Mia to identify unusual interests, taking context into account, Mia Learning uses machine learning. We have developed neural networks that extend Mia’s ability to do named entity recognition. (More specifically, Mia uses deep convolutional neural networks with residual embedding.) We trained these networks, which build on a general statistical model of English usage, using a large set of real world texts in which people talk about books. Our team annotated all the phrases within these texts that correspond to the types of interests for which Mia listens. Our machine learning technology used some of the annotated documents to build a statistical model and tested its ability to correctly identify the named entities in the remaining ones. It then went through thousands of iterations of adjusting and testing the model to maximize its accuracy.

Determining Interests from What Kids Do

In addition to listening to what kids say about their interests, Mia observes what they do. Anytime a child does something using the app that may be relevant to understanding the child as a reader, Mia records it as an experience (using the Experience API, also known as xAPI, format). Many of these experiences provide clues about children’s interests. For example, suppose the child Mia knows is interested in animals and humorous stories from the statement we have been dissecting chooses C.S. Lewis’s novel The Horse and His Boy from Mia’s recommendations. This action suggests that the child may be interested in books with similar qualities to those of The Horse and His Boy. Although the child may not yet be able to say so, they are likely to be interested in the genre “fantasy fiction” and in books with “courageous” characters. While reflecting on their reading with Mia, if the child reports a highly satisfactory experience with the book, this is an even stronger indicator of these interests.

Refining Interests Through Reflection

Through the process of observation of relevant experiences, Mia learns more and more about children’s interests as they choose books, read them, and reflect on the experience. However, Mia needs each child’s help to ensure that her profile of their interests is accurate. In some cases, Mia’s hypotheses about a child’s interests based on their experience records may be off base. For example, the horse-loving child could have just liked this particular work of fantasy fiction because of its themes or characters and not have much interest in other books from that genre. A child’s interests are also likely to change over time. The early preference for humorous stories might fade as the child increasingly chooses to read for purposes other than entertainment, such as to learn skills related to leathercraft, a new hobby.

To ensure that her understanding of interests is accurate and up-to-date, periodically Mia discusses what she thinks she knows about the a child’s interests with the child. Children can correct Mia’s mistaken conjectures, disavow stated interests that have faded over time, and share new ones. Researchers call using this approach an open learner model.

Through ongoing observation and discussion, Mia develops an increasingly sophisticated picture of a child’s interests that enables her to make increasingly effective book recommendations and to provide increasingly personalized coaching. The child also benefits from this process directly as their understanding of their own interests sharpens through reflection and their interests grow broader and deeper through exposure to new books. I hope this post has helped you understand how Mia uses cutting edge AI technologies to make this possible.

Blog Post

Guest Blog: Five Harmful Beliefs and Myths About Reading – and How Mia Can Help

August 23, 2018

by Leigh Ellis Beauchamp, M. Ed., Certified Reading Specialist 

You may have read my previous blog post about why I see Mia as a force for leveling the reading playing field. In this post, I’ll cover some of the more pernicious myths and beliefs about reading I’ve seen at play among parents, teachers, and students in my 14 years of teaching, as well as my vision for how Mia can help to counter them.

1. “Comic books [or any other type of text] aren’t books. They don’t count as real reading.”
Any reading is good reading! As I mentioned in my last post, kids are far more motivated to read when the book is one they choose and like! For example, maybe you believe that jogging is the best way to exercise, and you try to make your child jog a mile a day, with little success. You might get 30 seconds of a halfhearted run before dealing with 20 painful, foot-dragging minutes and a miserable kid. Meanwhile, your child loves swimming and spends two hours a day excitedly splashing and kicking around in the pool. Isn’t she still getting a workout? In fact, isn’t she getting much more of a workout than the unmotivated jogging drudgery that she only did because she was forced to? Would you ever want to jog again if that was your primary memory of jogging? So, why give your child unpleasant associations with reading by forcing her to read the way you think she should? READING IS READING IS READING. And so often, the “unliterary” comic strip or website your child begins with opens the way to print books (see #2). Mia’s recommendations are tailor-made to your child’s preferences, to ensure that their motivation is as high as it can be. Mia will never chastise your child’s tastes in reading material or hesitate to recommend a graphic novel. The science is unequivocal: Any reading is good for kids.

2. “My child should only read high quality literature.”
Taking issue with the appropriateness of a book’s content is one thing, but if you’re making value judgments on the merits of a text, try to put those aside. Recipes, emails, blogs, scripts, lists of ingredients … all of these require us to read. A young teacher I met in graduate school told me that it wasn’t until she was in high school and discovered fashion magazines that she started to enjoy reading. Those seemingly trivial, unworthy texts opened a world for her. I myself devoured a steady diet of fluffy series involving twins, babysitters, and the like. If your child likes “quality” literature, then more power to her! But, again, please don’t force the classics on your child in the hope that she’ll automatically develop a taste for them. Let kids read what they want to read, and forget the canon. It’s the simplest psychological equation: Human beings will repeatedly do what we enjoy; if your child enjoys his reading, he’s a lot more likely to repeat that pattern than if he doesn’t. And we want him to repeat that pattern, every day!

3. “I let my kid take the summer off from reading. They deserve a break.”
Studies show that kids’ reading proficiency nosedives when they don’t read over the summer in a troubling effect known as the “summer slide.” It is an absolute epidemic. Nearly all children advance in reading ability by about 9 months during a school year. Those who read over the summer move up an additional few months, while those who don’t, predictably, move back. The same holds true year after year, until, by 5th grade, the difference between the students who read over the summer and those that did not is 2.5 to 3 years.At the beginning of every school year, and again at the end, I show and then act out this video clip for my students. I go forward a number of steps to represent the knowledge gained by a student during the school year. Then I say, “But what happens when I don’t read over the summer?” They respond, “You go back.” I then take steps backwards. I then go forward again to represent the next school year, but again, tell them I’m choosing not to read over the summer. “What happens?” “You go back.” They start to notice that I don’t move terribly far forward. I just keep hovering, undoing steps I had taken to make progress and not really getting that far. Meanwhile, when I acted as the child who read all summer, it was just forward all the time in a straight path. I was almost out our classroom door in no time. So it goes with summer reading.The good news is that studies show that if a K-2nd grade student reads 10-12 books over the summer, they make the same academic gains as if they had attended summer school. The same is true for 3rd-8th graders if they read 5-6 books. I ask my 7th graders to guess how many books they would have to read this summer to equal a summer school education. Many are shocked that it’s only six, and once they realize it’s so few, I ask them to tell me how many books per week that means they’d have to read during the summer. They quickly figure out that it’s one book every two weeks. I then reiterate, “Ladies and gentlemen, just reading ONE book every TWO weeks over the summer, for a total of SIX books all summer, will do the same thing for you as if you went to summer school.” And I let that sink in. Summer reading is imperative.I stress this constantly with parents of my students, who frequently meet me with shocked and confused looks. I wish more parents knew about the dangers of the summer slide! If you feel guilty about your child’s summer reading habits, don’t despair. It’s not too late to change things: Why not read the same books as your child over the summer so you can talk about them? Without a teacher checking in over the summer months, Mia can be a valuable ally keeping your child on track and maintaining their reading momentum, and she’ll often suggest reading as a means to deepen their bond with you.

4. “Older kids don’t need to be read aloud to.”
I wholeheartedly agree with and reiterate what Mia Learning staff have already said on this topic. There’s something simultaneously comforting and exciting about having a text read aloud to you. The words flow off the page and right into your active imagination, which is freed up to simply soak in the beautiful language and create a sort of movie in your mind. Also, students’ listening comprehension is often quite a bit higher than their reading comprehension, usually by a few years. Kids who may not be able to grasp a text they attempt to read on their own can let their minds soar when they’re read to, creating a positive experience with language. It’s all about creating positive experiences.We return to activities that we feel good about. Mia coaches children who report struggling with a complex text to seek out an adult who can read the book with or to them, promoting resilience if they are indeed interested in the book. She also reminds kids of the social components of reading, encouraging them to connect with others via activities like reading aloud.

5. “Kids need to be tested after every book they read to see how well they really comprehended them.”
First, most of these tests involve low level, basic recall questions. They don’t require much deeper thinking, so they’re not terribly hard to pass. Second: Think about how relaxing and entertaining watching television can be. Let’s assume for the sake of argument it’s a favorite pastime of yours. Now, imagine you have to take a test immediately after every show you watch to see how well you comprehended it. How motivated will you be to watch TV now? While we do want to pay attention to kids’ comprehension, we don’t want to kill their motivation with constant testing. Mia will ask your child to actually reflect on how they’re making meaning from what they’ve read, not to assess their comprehension but to gauge how successfully her recommendation aligned with their purpose, ability level, and tastes.

One thing many of these myths have in common is that they tend to make us feel stressed out about our children’s reading. When we’re fretting over the quality of our child’s book selections, interrupting their momentum constantly to test them, or denying them the pleasures of being read to, we inadvertently take what should be a joyous experience and strip it of all its charms. Mia is dedicated to helping your child or student to associate reading with fulfillment and enjoyment. Why not join her in her mission? Don’t let these destructive myths get in the way of a lifelong love of reading.