“You Don’t Know How to Parent!” or How James Learned to Share His iPad Time with Reading

mad-kidby Karen Fried, co-director of The K&M Center

“You don’t know how to parent!” – spoken like any frustrated 10 year-old. James lost his iPad privileges because his parents realized he had stopped reading because games like Flappy Bird, 2048, and Doodle Jump were just too much fun. Despite frequent reminders to read, it seemed every time James’ parents walked by, James head was slumped over his device and he was swiping away.

In consultation with James’ parents, we discussed whether there were any underlying reasons why James could be avoiding reading.  For example, did he have any learning or attention challenges? After that was ruled out, we discussed a strategy of restricting use of the iPad and explaining to James to value of reading.

Boy Reading Book IIOnce they noticed he was spending his free time reading, he would again be able to use the ipad and play his games. However, James’ first response was his certainty that his parents were incompetent (see above). When James’ parents held firm and suggested books that he would enjoy, read with him consistently, and engaged in discussions about the stories, James showed signs of rediscovering the joy of reading. He (barely) mentioned his iPad and enjoyed the attention his parents paid to him. A week later James got his iPad back and he and his family now have a new daily routine in place that includes reading.

While technology is an important part of all our lives for work and play, it can be a distraction from other productive activities such as reading or other projects. Besides determining whether there is an underlying cause, parents can also monitor their own use of technology. Modeling time off the phone and computer to engage with family can send the powerful message to your children that you follow the same habits you’re asking of them.

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“Honey, we won the lottery! Oh, wait a minute…”

by Karen Fried, co-director of The K&M Centerraining money

My dear friend said these words to her son, Jeffrey, and her husband when the school psychologist told them that Jeffrey was eligible to have college tuition paid for by the Department of Rehabilitation.

“Wow,” she thought, “what a gift!”

Then, her second thought was, “Oh boy, they only give this ‘gift’ to students with significant learning and emotional difficulties. My son is one of those students.”

Like many families we work with, my friend advocated for her son. It was only through proper diagnosis and treatment for his learning challenges that college even became an option. Study skills and organization were ongoing struggles.  They used calendars on the walls, on-line calendars, phone alarms, you name it, to keep him on track. She also faced the painful news that Jeffrey’s difficulties were long-term and required consistent support.

Now a freshman in college, Jeffrey recently called home to say while he’s doing well in three classes, he needs to drop his fourth. He couldn’t finish the required assignment in time and thought it was better to drop it rather than receive an F. Curious, she went online to his course load on the college website to see the one class he was dropping. The name of this class? TIME MANAGEMENT

To see the kinds of exercises and checklists that students like Jeffrey and countless others have benefitted from, check out The K&M Center Executive Functioning Workbook.  You can also check out the K&M Executive Functioning Program for more information including a free executive functioning questionairre.


Have questions?  Feel free to contact The K&M Center at 1-310-582-1563 ext 102. 

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“Well, She’ll Never Be a Brain Surgeon”

by Karen Fried, co-director of The K&M Center

Frustrated Girl Learner

Getty Images

I heard this recently from parents of a child who had recently been evaluated for her learning difficulties. They were told to expect little in terms of future career options for their daughter based upon the weaknesses reflected in her testing. My thought was, “How dare someone be so limiting about the future of an 8 year old child!”

What I shared with the parents is our experience: that students’ testing results are helpful to devise a plan to improve their ability to learn.  However, it is my feeling that using testing data about a student to exclude them from potential careers is a misuse of the information.

These parents came away from the assessment process feeling demoralized about the future prospects for their child – before they even started working on the issue.

There is a long list of successful adults who had learning difficulties as children in every field, including, medicine, science, art, engineering, law, athletics, and entertainment. Great Schools.com has even published such a list – Famous People with Learning Difficulties.

It is our mission at The K&M Center to add our students to the growing number of successful adults pursuing careers of their choosing.  If you are feeling overwhelmed, we can help.  We welcome you to visit our website where you can read K&M Success Stories as well as learn more about how, every day, we help children increase their ability to learn and reach their potential.


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I’ve Taught Every Kid in the City to Read – How Come I Can’t Teach My Own Kids?

by Karen Fried, co-director of The K&M Center



Years ago, we worked with the children of a nationally recognized elementary school teacher. She was expressing her frustration that everyone else’s children benefited from her expertise and her own kids were still struggling readers despite her time with them.

When it was time to read with her kids, she heard:

“I will read, I just don’t want to read right now.”

“That book is boring! I want to start another book.”

“I’m tired.”

“I did read-–at school.”

“My teacher said we didn’t have to read tonight.”

As the director of a learning center, I work with many parents whose children struggle with reading. For these parents, the 15- to 20-minute assigned reading time turns into nightly battles with reluctant readers. Knowing their children are behind in reading, these parents feel tremendous pressure to use every minute to build up their children’s skills. Some of these parents are passionate readers who want that joy for their children; some struggled with reading themselves, and want their children to have a different experience. Either way, such parents have one of the toughest roles: teaching their own children skills that seem either all too basic, or all too hard.

In fact, teaching kids to read is far more difficult than it seems, particularly for parents who learned to read easily. Louisa Moats from the NICHD-Yale Center for the Study of Learning and Attention has famously said, “Teaching reading is rocket science.” Common scenarios include parents’ expecting children to sound out words they stumble on, since “we just went over that word!” Or parents quiz kids on the meaning of the story, as “they just don’t seem to be getting it.” Often, parents push their children to read past the limits of their fatigue because “their teacher wants them to read for 20 minutes.”

What results from all this? Rather than a warm, relaxing experience of enjoying a good story together, reading time is filled with frustration and tears–sometimes on both sides.  But why exactly don’t these well meaning parents’ efforts work?

Sounding out words actually becomes harder in the context of a passage. As we outlined in the K&M Center’s Seven Steps to Building Reading Skills, http://www.kandmcenter.com/downloads/HelpYourChildRead.pdf reading requires attention, memory, visual processing, and auditory processing. So any word that isn’t mastered or “automatic” for a child becomes even harder for him or her to recognize when the child must manage all the multiple processing demands of reading a passage.

Comprehension is weakened if a child exerts too much effort to decode the words. This extra strain often makes children feel “bored,” tired, or generally resistant when parents want to discuss the meaning of the story they’re reading.

If a child has weaknesses in decoding, comprehension, underlying visual or auditory processing, memory or attention, the reading process is truly exhausting. A child who feels like the nightly 15-20 minutes “takes forever” could be experiencing fatigue.

If these scenarios sound familiar, the following suggestions might help. While reading with your child, keep in mind that your goal is to nurture his or her lifelong love of reading. The objective is to create positive associations to the time your child spends reading with you.

  1. Leave the process of “teaching reading” to teachers or, if necessary, reading specialists.
  2. Pick two books: one that is just below the child’s reading level, so he or she can be successful reading it aloud; and another at the child’s comprehension level, which more closely matches her or his language skills and listening comprehension, for you to read aloud.
  3. Remember that any time spent with you, a book, and your child is positive, even if you do most or all of the reading. A child gets many benefits from listening to a story, including developing vocabulary, comprehension, and auditory processing skills.
  4. Preview the text your child will be reading and scan for difficult words. Before you start to read, “give them” those words so your child can experience success when she or he finds them in the story.
  5. Check out the K&M Center’s Seven Steps to Building Reading Skills, which provides a breakdown of the skills involved in reading and more tips on how to help your child when he or she experiences difficulty.
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Popular Girls Know How To Read

by Karen Fried, co-director of The K&M Center

file4501243625430The painful lesson learned by one of our new students is that the popular girls in her class knew how to read. They knew how to read and they certainly read better than she did. Her mom called our center, to say that her once-popular daughter was now feeling isolated from her friends because she was a struggling reader.


These friends were mastering one of the most valued skills in elementary school: reading.

As second graders, they were sharing excerpts from their favorite books and getting through series like Junie B. and one girl was even proudly talking about reading Harry Potter.

Through no fault of her own, this student’s brain has trouble processing the sounds in our language, which made it hard for her to read at the same pace as her peers. It is our mission at The K&M Center to enable students such as this second grade girl to discover the joy of reading and to share that enjoyment with her friends.

If your child has struggles with any aspect of the reading process, we welcome you to visit our website,  The K&M Center Reading Program, and find out how we can help.

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