Episode 28: Focusing on Focus: Helping Kids Read Independently with Kristen Berrett

Episode 28: Focusing on Focus: Helping Kids Read Independently with Kristen Berrett

We are focusing on focus and helping kids read independently in this episode – a sometimes overwhelming subject. If you have a wiggle-worm or reluctant reader in your life, this may be a helpful listen.

This week we are joined by Kristen Berrett, an educator who has worked with non-profit youth mentoring organizations for many years. She is an avid reader (not surprising, as she is one of co-host Jill’s five sisters) who joined us to share her thoughts and years of experience working with children and teenagers from all sorts of backgrounds.

In this episode we talk about:

1. How many parents and others who work with kids would love for said kids and teens to read more, but aren’t sure how to help them have the focus needed to read independently.

“If we are talking about teaching a child the skill of being able to focus and read independently, just the same with any skill- practice makes perfect.”

2. Several things that Kristen has studied and researched that can affect a child’s ability to focus (and, by extension, their ability to read independently). Two main ones that she has focused on in her career are screen time and childhood trauma.

“Even as I’m working from home today I have like 12 internet browsers open and I’m going back and forth between all of them and it’s not teaching anybody- kids or adults- how to focus on one thing.” 

3. Things that Kristen has learned both through her research as well as through working with kids that can help children improve their ability to focus.

4. How meditation and mindfulness is a growing idea in schools, after-school programs and even families that can help kids “get their brain back into a place where they can focus.”

“Even just a few minutes in nature every day can help a kid learn how to calm their mind and slow things down so that they can focus on other things during the rest of their lives.”

5. Some techniques that Kirsten has seen actually help kids improve the effects of childhood trauma, which can be a big factor in kids’ ability to focus.

6. The unique classroom experience Kristen had when she was teaching- elementary school physical education and high school leadership classes for Latinos and refugees-  and how she used books in her classes.

“Because of the demographics of the classes I was teaching, we had a lot of conversations about race and about what that means, to be different from other people…and the book really opened up a lot of those conversations.”

7. Independent reading and young children, starting habits early and how audiobooks can play a role in that.

8. Research and resources Kirsten has used to build her knowledge base in this subject.

We are so grateful to Kristen for taking the time to talk with us! More information about her, and some of the things we chatted about can be found in the following places:

Books we mention in Focusing on Focus: Helping Kids Read Independently

The Deepest Well Nadine Burke Harris

Paul Tough, author

Peaceful Piggie Meditation by Kerry Lee MacLean

Blue Willow by Doris Gates

Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

We also mention:

Better Screen Time – a great resource for helping you keep the tech in your home in check, no matter how old your children are.

You may also be interested in our interview with Lauren Tarshis from Scholastic, Fighting The Decline By Nine.

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