The VISCERAL Method
The Visceral Method is a revolutionary technique based on over thirty years of field work with America's youth.
While we offer a simplified version below, we encourage prospective educators, learners, parents and community advocates to contact us for a more thorough methodology, which can be applied to virtually any situation.
Validate their interest in books. Ask if they need help. Assume they cannot read on grade level, but stay hopeful that they can. Remain compassionate and engaged. Ask where they go to school, where they live, etc.
Identify underlying problems. Do they have over due books, are they worried about their peers seeing them? Ask if you can give them a stack of books to look through. Explain that many children have adverse literacy experiences and this may have happened to them too.
Support any apprehension they may have. Let them know how most kids their age don’t read and finish books, but they all say they do. Tell a true story about your own reading aversion or someone else’s, convey empathy for any situation they may exemplify. Get them talking. Let them know you're sorry they had trauma related to reading and you're here to help.
Connections are key. Ask if any of their teachers ever mentioned connections. Tell them most kids get books that are too hard for them, but you know how someone can start easy and move up to the fifth tier within months. Give names of successful students. Ask if they know any of them. Make it clear kids just like them are reading the same books. Tell them their brain functions at a higher level, they are more equipped to take on more difficult information, and they learn easier and faster when they start reading.
Ease them into this first book. Remind them they must know most or all of the words before testing them by pointing to the most difficult words on the page. If they know the words move on to Step 6, if they don’t then gently help them into an easier book, explain that real readers don’t read books that are too hard. Tell them that reading should not be torture.
Reiterate the idea of connections. Explain that we connect to stories and characters the same way we connect to our family members and friends. Read the first sentence together making your own connections, then take turns and validate their connections. Take your time. Ask questions. Then repeat this step every sentence or so until you both feel confident the student can continue on their own.
Allow time and space for questions, summarize the plan, and again give them a way out, let them know they can exchange books, they can change their minds, but they can also ask for help. If they come to a word they don’t know they can ask for the definition. If they come to a sentence they don’t understand they can ask for clarification.
Link everything back to the child and the fact that you're supporting them. Look for ways to encourage them. Allow for the fact it may not be easy, but reading will become easier. Tell them you have confidence in them and can’t wait to see them again. Let them know you will always be there to help.