Happy Cheetah Reading

How Fourteen Beta Readers Informed My Method of Reading Aloud

I wrote a short book recently all about reading challenges.

After it was done, I sent it out to beta readers in order to get some feedback.

I had fourteen people offer suggestions, and the most surprising thing to me was this: not a single person’s suggestions overlapped with anyone else’s.

One person caught a few grammatical errors. One person noticed three instances of duplicate words. One person suggested I change a word that might be interpreted incorrectly. Another called out a place where I sounded a bit bossy.

One person found a particular section unclear. Another offered recommendations on how to expand a topic. With one person’s feedback, I realized I had accidentally left off a necessary explanation.

So much welcome feedback!

But I would have expected to have some duplicate suggestions.

I mentioned this curious result to Dr. Karen Holinga. She said, “I’ve noticed that, too. It’s because all of us need to tie new information to old, and we all have our own set of experiences and situations. So we all make our own connections to the text.”

I like that. All those readers, figuring out how to connect this new information to their own past life experience.

And it makes sense that Dr. Karen would notice that. One of the unique aspects of her Happy Cheetah Reading System is that every part of the program ties new information to old, to what the students already know.

Researchers have made tremendous advances in the last few decades, learning how the brain processes information. And it turns out that teaching unrelated facts is completely ineffective.

You may remember studying for a spelling test every day for a week, then taking a test on Friday. But then the next Tuesday, when you wrote one of those words, you couldn’t remember how to spell it.

That’s because the hippocampus, the filing system of the brain, dumps information that isn’t connected. It’s like you sent all these little packages of letter combinations to the filing system, but then there was no folder waiting for that information, so the efficient janitor tossed out those extra words.

So when you read a book about a dog to your children, and they want to interrupt and tell you about all the dogs they have known, or all the possible names for future dogs they have, go ahead and let them. They are connecting what they are learning to what they already knew. The experience of reading is about the experience. The text is great, but it’s static. The experience of making the text your own — that is amazing.

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