Boost Reading Skills with This Quick 5-Minute Exercise

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Children who engage in five minutes of mindfulness before diving into a book are more likely to enhance their reading abilities.

A recent study in the United States, believed to be the first of its kind explored the direct connections between mindfulness and academic skills in adolescents.

Scientists from Cornell University and Syracuse University investigated the reading abilities of 56 students, aged 12-13, with some groups participating in mindfulness activities before reading.

These exercises involved increased self-awareness of breathing patterns and fostering positive thoughts – practices that aid in maintaining focus on the present, commonly referred to as mindfulness.

After the academic year, students who engaged in mindfulness techniques demonstrated an average improvement of 4.41 words read correctly during a timed reading exercise.

Prior studies have established connections between interventions centered around mindfulness and enhanced academic performance. However, a considerable portion of this research concentrates on overall grades rather than delving into the specific skills essential for achieving those grades.

This is a measure of tapping into the actual skills that students are using to make sense of the text they’re reading, rather than simply a grade they would get for the semester, says lead author Josh Felver, a psychologist from Cornell University.

As emphasized in the research, a strong grasp of reading comprehension holds immense significance for various academic disciplines. Enhancing the ability to comprehend words and sentences can potentially lead to overall academic improvement among children.

At the New York state school where the study was conducted, 70 percent of students identify as Black and 88 percent of students reside below the poverty level. The mindfulness approach presents an affordable and straightforward method to support individuals from historically marginalized backgrounds, as suggested by the researchers.

Given the large, persistent disparities in standardized measures of reading among students of color, it is exciting that we found evidence that a time-efficient mindfulness practice has a positive influence on educational outcomes, says Felver.

The researchers aim for future studies to explore the effectiveness of mindfulness when directly compared to other methods of enhancing reading skills. Additionally, they want to investigate how various mindfulness strategies, along with the time invested in preparation, may influence the outcomes.

The researchers also aim to delve deeper into the mechanisms behind how mindfulness contributes to improved reading skills and its positive impact on the brain, creating an optimal mental state for reading. While further exploration is needed, the initial indications show promise.

There is a significant need for feasible, effective interventions like this one to help youth from historically minoritized backgrounds bolster their reading skills so that they may be successful in school, says Felver.

The findings have been published in the journal School Psychology.