Tools for Visual & Linguistic Learners

Tools for Visual & Linguistic LearnersHelp Your Child’s Learning Style Come Alive

The world must be a uniquely beautiful view for one of my kids. He sees things many just walk right past, hears things in a different way, and finds the humorous, perplexing, and inspiring in what we might consider the mundane. His learning styles are unique to him, but I consider it my job to help find tools that will enhance his learning. If you’re the parent or teacher of a child who thrives on visual or linguistic learning strategies, you know that his or her view on the world is intriguing, and that it is not always easy to use typical teaching tools.

Linguistic learners have skills for reading, writing, speaking – those tasks that revolve around words and communicating ideas through them.

Visual learners thrive on seeing things in action, through demonstrations, charts, graphs, pictures, and any other way they can visually connect with an idea.

You don’t understand anything until you learn it more than one way. ~Marvin Minsky

I treasure that quote by Minsky. It reminds me that just because things have been taught in certain ways for so long, it doesn’t mean those are the only effective ways to learn. Visual and linguistic learners often have similar traits – they enjoy stories. The following learning tools incorporate both of these in unconventional, yet successful ways.

Language Arts Learning Tools for Visual and Linguistic Learners


We use idioms often without thinking too much about them. They are a natural part of the English language. Some people, however, struggle to decipher idioms, usually taking them literally (which would be a very confusing way to spend the day). One of the markers of kids on the Autism spectrum is an inability to comprehend idioms. The phrase, “I’ve got a frog in my throat” takes on a whole other meaning for these kids.

Teach your kids about idioms using books like my son’s favorite, Horsing Around – Making Sense of Everyday Idioms, by Katherine Scraper. In the book there are 50 common idioms, each illustrated with funny interpretations and a story passage using the idiom in a dialogue situation (a few short paragraphs). This book appeals to both visual and linguistic learners. The pages also each give space for kids to write their own interpretations of the idioms.

Understanding idioms improves language by

  • Helping with oral language development, especially in the early preschool and elementary years
  • Building reading skills
  • Developing creative writing skills
  • Improving speech for ESL students (English as a Second Language)

Mathematics Learning Tools for Visual and Linguistic Learners

Math doesn’t have to be just rote calculations. Perhaps it is my love of the written word that draws me to these next two math tools, but I’ve also seen my kids relate to numbers and mathematical theories in a different way since adding these resources to our bookshelves.

Life of Fred

  • The Life of Fred books are a series of “story” books, ranging from elementary all the way through high school, that are designed to get students thinking about math. The unconventional approach uses humorous or just plain wacky stories to teach kids how to apply mathematical concepts.

Charlesbridge Math Adventures

  • This series of math adventures, perfect for early elementary students (even my older kids love to listen to these, too), is an engaging way to introduce and reinforce math concepts. Colorful and wonderfully illustrated tales have characters experiencing adventures that are all intertwined with mathematics. Some of our favorite titles include:
    • Sir Cumference and the Isle of Immeter (a tale that teaches kids how to calculate things such as the area of a circle)
    • Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi (yep – a story about calculating with pi)
    • Alice in Pastaland (an adventure centered around problem solving skills)
    • Cut Down to Size at High Noon (ratios and proportions set in a western story)

Social Studies Learning Tools for Visual and Linguistic Learners

Do you remember memorizing the list of presidents when you were in elementary school, the names and locations of countries, or the capitals of states? If you were like me, it was simply based on rote memorization, grouped by perhaps 10 names at a time. And the memorization lasted long enough to pass the test – and it was usually not an entertaining experience. If you’re looking for a new way to help your kids memorize these basic (and sometimes boring) facts, try some of these books.

Yo, Millard Fillmore!

  • This fun and engaging book helped all of my kids not only learn the names of the US presidents, but their memory of these facts is long lasting, and they really enjoyed the illustrative approach. Each president has a picture and short description as to how the picture fits with that name. Then, each picture (president) is somehow linked to the following one, helping to reinforce the order of presidency.

Yo, Sacramento!

  • Just like Yo, Millard Fillmore!, this book engages readers through humorous illustrations that teach kids how to relate the capital names to the state names.

The Scrambled States of America

  • You might be familiar with this title of the book that teaches about the US states. I also use the board game (by the same name) to reinforce the illustrative concepts presented in the book.

Visualize World Geography

  • I admit that when I first saw this book I raised an eyebrow. The graphics are – unique – and I wasn’t sure I would be able to get past their uniqueness in order to actually learn from the materials. But then my kids and I started using it and we realized that these mental maps that the book creates really do work. There are short bits that go with each graphic to help tie the mental map together, appealing to both my visual and linguistic learners.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned as a homeschool parent is that learning styles not only influence academics, but they transcend our personalities. It is more than learning about reading, writing, and arithmetic. It is about learning what makes each one of us tick – what gets us excited to try new things, and helps us overcome failures. When we tune into our kids’ learning styles, we give them tools that go far beyond their report cards.


Banish the Book Banning


Book Banning and the Call for a Rating System

As I sat watching the original “Footloose” with my daughter last night, I thought of how so many things had changed – the hairstyles, the shoes, the dance moves – and yet how so many things have stayed the same. There is a scene where parents toss books into a burning bin – fearful of the words on the pages. It seems that no matter how modern our society becomes, it is still difficult to get over this fear.

Death, witchcraft, gore, and sex. These are just some of themes that you can see on the covers – and within the pages – of books in the children’s wing at your local library. And these are just a few of the reasons why some adults want books either banned from the children’s wings of libraries, or to have a rating system on books (much like the movie rating system). 

Should Books Be Rated for Kids?

The author of the Vampyre Labyrinth series, GP Taylor, is now changing his tune and pushing for age certifications on children’s literature. He admits that some of the books he has written are too frightening, and says that, “I have changed my mind: I think children’s literature has gone too far.”

Part of this appears to be stemming from a recent analysis of award-winning children’s literature. This analysis shows that modern children’s literature is more likely to feature characters with troubled or absent parents, or children who have been abandoned. However, if you ask one of my sons, Disney movies have been doing this since its inception. Long ago at the tender age of 6 this sweet son of mine swore off Disney movies – detesting them because the mom always dies. From Bambi to Cinderella to Finding Nemo – this theme of motherless children forced to endure life on their own has been a mainstay of classic children’s moviesMy son banned Disney movies for himself – but we hardly ban them from the house as he discerned for himself what he felt good about watching or not (and now he loves scary movies – but still not Disney).

Opponents to book rating systems say that all it would do is create an almost innate desire in kids to read the book on the top shelf. It must be really good if it stays on the top shelf. In our library right now we have the children’s wing separated by signs – Early Readers, Young Adult Fiction, etc. – and that seems to work well enough for most families. Beyond creating the mystique that a rating system would do, rating books based on content would be such a subjective act. Who would be assigned or corralled to determine what books, at what ages, my kids should read? The only answer I am comfortable with is: my family.


Banning Books – Still a Modern Practice

While you don’t really hear of book burning in the news, you probably also aren’t hearing of book banning – but it is still happening. In fact, book banning is still trending enough so that there is an entire coalition, backed by the Library of Congress, dedicated to ending the practice. You can even check out the map of book banning across the United States. Banned Books Week, recently held September 30th thru October 6th, aims to protect literature (and readers) from the judgments of a select few.

Targeting The Hunger Games – and Other Modern Book Banning

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, is just one recent title that some people have attempted to ban in libraries, schools, and bookstores. I was even asked recently by a parent if I would dare to let my kids read the series, to which I gave a smile and then proceeded to talk about how my kids not only read the books, but attended a book club devoted to the story. I reminded this nervous mother, who had been hearing from other parents how this book might be too violent for kids, that books aren’t inherently bad – it is how we interpret and use them that matters.

Parents use censorship all of the time – we monitor what programs our kids watch on television, we monitor the conversations in which they participate, and we monitor their activities. Book banning and rating, however, mean that someone else gets to choose what is best for your child.

A devout Christian will likely get much more out of The Chronicles of Narnia than will an atheist, because there is Biblical context for the Christian that he applies to the book, while the atheist views it merely as a form of literature. It is the context of life that we provide for our kids that they will use when discerning how a story does or does not relate to them.

Monitoring Book Choices for Kids

If you are concerned about a book selection your child is eager to read, don’t just put the book on the top shelf, out of reach, and walk away (or worse yet – try to ban it so others don’t have access to it).

  • Read the books with your kids, either aloud together or each grab your own copy.
  • Don’t banish scary stories – research shows that kids benefit from the imaginitive and emotional process when they are exposed to scary stories.
  • Talk about the themes, the plots, the characters, and the parallels (if any) to real life.
  • Talk about the differences between fiction and non-fiction.
  • Find a book club for your kids so they can discuss these ideas among peers.
  • Find other books with similar themes that you think are more appropriate and start there, willing to continue to the next level if your child still seems interested.


Famously Banned Books

You can put books like The Hunger Games in the same category of books such as

  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Where the Wild Things Are
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • The Call of the Wild
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls
  • Invisible Man
  • The Red Badge of Courage
  • And so many more influential pieces of literature

All of these titles were criticized and in some places, banned. Yet, on a historical plane, all of the above titles have contributed to literature as an art and as contributions to humanity. Before you jump on the book banning bandwagon, ask yourself this question.

What is it about my child that worries me in regards to this book?

Maybe it is that your child is not yet mature enough for the plot, not yet sensitive enough for the emotions, or not yet morally grounded enough for the ideas presented. Then consider if the book is really the issue. If a book is going to thwart my child’s development, set his moral compass askew, or threaten what we know and believe about respect, integrity, and relationships, then the book is the least of my concerns.

Printables to Encourage Reluctant Readers

Little girl with books wearing black glassesSetting Reading Goals and Reaching for the Stars

Are you a bookworm but you are raising a book-balker? A child who balks at most of the books you suggest from the shelves and who would rather shovel the snow and clean the toilets before willingly grabbing a book to devour? Many educators and parents are now using the term reluctant reader to describe these kids – the ones we so desperately want to expose to the joys of reading – but who we sometimes turn away from reading because we are trying too hard. Try these printable reading activities and goal trackers with your reluctant or struggling readers, or even with your emerging readers you are trying to keep motivated.

Beginner BookmarksThese printable bookmarks are divided into 10 minute chunks – when your child has finished reading 10 minutes, he can put a check in the box, place a small sticker in the box, or even use a hole punch to mark his progress. You can decide together what the reward will be when he has completed one bookmark (equivalent to 1 hour of reading). For some kids the completion of the bookmark is the reward, but others might need extra encouragement, such as a coupon to choose the movie for family night or a trip to the local park.

Reach for the StarsThis dot-to-dot printable can be used with the goal that works best for your child. The goal might be to read for 10 or 20 minutes each day, or even just to read 3 pages of a book. Decide that with your child, and then use this printable sheet to track her progress. Each time she reaches a goal she gets to connect a dot.

Recommended Reading – Empower your reader by giving him a voice in regards to the types of books he likes to read. Use this printable sheet for him to share with others the books that he would recommend. Just yesterday I watched as one of my sons handed the local librarian a new hardcover book that he received for Christmas, read once, and told her he would like to donate the book to the children’s collection because it was not one that he really enjoyed but wasn’t available yet on the shelves. The empowerment he felt because he was able to share his recommended reading with other kids was enormous – and he can always check it out again if he wants to re-read it.

Basic Book Report – If your reluctant reader (and maybe writer) hears the words book report, he might recoil in distaste. Sometimes just lightening the load and the expectations alleviates the pressure to not only read the book, but then write an amazing report about the book. Use this basic book report form to help reluctant readers focus on the basics of the book – recognizing authors and illustrators, main characters, settings, and the overall idea.

Reading can be one of the most enjoyable activities for some children, but for others it is a chore and a source of frustration. But we can keep plugging along and trying every trick in the book. As long as we keep trying to expose our kids to great stories and opportunities to listen to and read varieties of books, we keep the reading door open in their lives.

This week I had many glorious moments of a child who had a hard time listening to my instructions. Why is that glorious? Because for one of the first times in his life I can’t get his nose out of his books. In fact, I used to have to use every trick in the book just to get him to select one book from the library. This week, however, I am relishing his distraction because the reluctance to read is being replaced with a reluctance to put the book down on the table. These are wonderful problems to have!

[a portion of this was originally published at :)]

5 Free and Easy Printables

teens and booksTo Encourage Reluctant Readers

Not every child is an automatic reader – those kids who seem to pick up reading as easily as blinking and smiling, and who always seem to have books tucked under their arms (if not held in front of their faces). If you have a reluctant reader, or your child likes to read but needs extra help understanding the stories behind the words, try these free printable worksheets and goal charts that can take the chore and bore out of reading.

  1. Bookmark Minutes – Print these bookmarks and have your child record the minutes he spends reading on each line, either for each day or for each time he sits down to read the book. Even reluctant readers or kids who struggle with reading can feel successful when they can count minutes, instead of pages, that they spent reading.
  2. Chapter Chart – Sometimes reading chapter books can be daunting tasks for kids who are either struggling to read or for those who just haven’t been caught up in the excitement of books yet. Sometimes kids simply feel too much pressure to enjoy reading that they think they have to enjoy everything they read. This chart encourages kids to think about each chapter, and gives them permission not to like it.
  3. Basic Reading ChartThis chart encourages kids to record the titles of the books they read, and each book helps them get to their goal of reading 5 books. You can work with your kids to determine how long it might take to read those 5 books, and whether or not there will be a small token reward at the end of each book. This could even be a sticker to put on the step, a new bookmark, or you could just let the reading be the reward.
  4. Chain of Events – When kids start to read books that involve bigger plots, it can be helpful to have them think about all of the details that make up the story. When they can recognize details in the stories they read, they will also improve their writing abilities. Details work together, just like a chain of events – and reading can unlock so many doors!
  5. Following Clues – One of the skills that older readers can develop is how to follow clues in a story. Sometimes as kids read they just aren’t sure which clues might be needed to solve the mystery or problem. Have them record the clues they think they find along the way, but also make sure they go back and look at the clues they recorded after they read the story to see if they would make a good reading detective!

[I originally shared these at]