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Some Kids Can Only Read Upside Down - In The Beginning Anyway...


I'm a first grade teacher and I've discovered something very interesting. I've found that the kids that seem to struggle the most with learning how to read, not only do much better when they read and write upside down, but it helps them to transition to "conventional" reading quickly and easily within a month or two. 

Ten years ago I had a little boy named Emmanuel in 2nd grade who absolutely could not read the simplest text - no matter how much he tried. Everyone who had attempted  to help him through the years  - his family, his kindergarten teacher, his first grade teacher, reading specialists and special ed. teachers, all had all eventually given up in frustration - AND SO HAD HE! His behavior was terrible, his grades were awful, he refused to pay attention and often simply went to sleep in class.

This poor guy knew that he was smart but could not figure out what he was doing wrong. He had become so frustrated that one day he actually hit me right in the middle of class (the only child in ten years to do so) and was dragged out of the room by the "behavior specialists". But I could not give up on him.

Then one day I was observing Emmanuel and another boy "partner reading" on the rug. The other boy would read a page AND EMMANUEL WAS HELPING HIM FIGURE OUT THE WORDS WHEN HE GOT STUCK! How was that possible? I quietly walked over and watched what was going on.

The other boy was holding the book and Emmanuel was LOOKING OVER THE TOP ! To him, everything was upside down and backwards - but he could make perfect sense of it! I called him up to my desk and asked him if it was easier for him to read upside down and he said "Yes." I was shocked. I immediately took out a simple first grade text (one that Emmanuel had never been able to read before) and he proceeded to read it perfectly - COMPLETELY UPSIDE DOWN! I gave him a harder book and the same thing happened.

I grabbed his hand and his books and we went straight down to the principal. Up until that day, the only time she had ever seen Emmanuel was because of discipline problems. Today both he and I were smiling. I said, "Mrs. Owen, I want you to meet the absolutely best upside down reader I have ever seen!" And he walked over next to her and read his books, fluently and with feeling, completely upside down. We praised him. She hugged him. We called his mom with the good news. 

I wrote a "good note" home that afternoon and said to just encourage him to continue doing exactly what he was doing. Emmanuel  went on through the semester reading that way. He even went into other teacher's classrooms to demonstrate his talent to their classes. His self respect  and confidence sky- rocketed. By the end of the year he was "On Level" with his peers.

His mom came in to thank me for turning Emmanuel around, and she continued to call me for a few years after that to tell me how well he was doing in his new school. The remarkable thing was, she said, that "Emmanuel taught himself how to read right-side-up, all on his own!"

During the months that I worked with Emmanuel I did my best to find information on the internet and at the local libraries on "Upside Down Reading" , but could find absolutely nothing. Some people said that they had heard of it, and that they thought it was some rare form of dyslexia, but no studies had ever been done.

Well, I figured that Emmanuel was "one-in-a-million" and life went on. I lost touch with Emmanuel and his mom, but continued to teach both first and second grades. And I had never thought that much about upside down reading until the spring of 2009. At that time I had two very bright little boys who were turning out to be just like Emmanuel. Six months went by with no progress with either one. Then one day it hit me - Upside Down Readers !!

I called them up one at a time and had them try it. Success!! Both boys did significantly better upside down than they had ever done "the normal way". And from that day I have made it a point to find out everything I can about this phenomena and how it can help struggling readers. I've dubbed it Print Inverted Reading and you can find all about what I've learned by going to my website - http://www.pireading.com . You can see videos of kids reading and writing upside down! So, if you know someone who has trouble reading, suggest that s/he look at it another way.....  Upside Down!

Oh, and Emmanuel, if you ever read this, be sure to look me up. I have been trying to contact you for years...

Mr. Round

 
teacherman9000 teacherman9000 56-60 7 Responses Aug 12, 2010

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I just discovered that one of my daughters friends reads upside down. She said she didn't have problems in school with reading until she got in 5th grade. As text became more complex it took too long to figure it out so after hearing her mom talk about reading upside down as a kid she decided to flip her book. She said after that reading got much easier and she could keep up with the class better and comprehend it. She is now a freshman in high school.

I have an upside down reader this year! I'm a second grade teacher and I got a new student this year who was basically a non reader. Her DRA level was an instructional 3. He father told me that he noticed that she was able to read words upside down when he was reading to her and she was looking over the top of the book. I was very skeptical and so tested it out. I timed her rate of reading on a few occasions, both reading right-side up and upside down and each time, her reading rate was more than twice as fast when she read upside down. She also made half the errors. So now I have her read the book the first time around upside down and then she works on reading it both ways during the rest of the week. I hadn't thought of seeing if she could write upses down. I'm so glad I came across your article. Thanks for sharing!

Thanks so much, nrobins, for posting!
Did you get a chance to look at the collection of videos of kids reading and writing upside-down at http://www.pireading.com ? Over 40 kids and adults!

Print Inversion is much more common than people think - and it's not a forever thing. It's "scaffold" to help dyslexic kids become successful at reading. Typically, these kids "flip-it" and read conventionally after just a month or two.

I have dyslexia. I read and comprehend better when the text is up-side down. Once at work we got a memo that everyone was struggling to understand. I finally turned it upside down and read it. It made sense then and I was able to explain what we needed to do. My peers were impressed.
But when I was talking to my boss one day I glanced down at the paper in front of him and read something I shouldn't have seen. Unaware it was top secret I asked him about it. He wanted to know who told me. I explained it was on his desk and I just read it. He didn't believe me until he turned the page and I read it word for word. I read slowly when I have to read right side up. The letters start dancing around and it takes a lot of practice to do it. But upside down it flows much better. The letters stay in place and my head doesn't hurt.

Thank you for your response. I am teacherman's wife. I am a reading specialist who works with children struggling to read. My husband and I have worked tirelessly for the last several years to have your struggles (and the struggles of others like you) acknowledged. All too often, those in power will cite the scientific research that attributes dyslexia to phonological processing and will give no credence to those who experience the visual component. Would you allow me to share your posting with my colleagues so they can better understand and support students who share your reading difference?,

You are welcome to share with anyone who it might help broaden their understanding. Speaking as one who lives with the issue, dyslexia can cause phonological issues, phonological issues do not cause dyslexia.
I wish someone would do a study on the dendrites of high functioning dyslexics. The brain's pathways of language are probably more plentiful than the average person because we must process information in various ways to be successful. I'm not saying we are smarter than the average person, although some are, but that it requires more effort; we don't give up when something doesn't make sense because that is normal for us.

My daughter has been struggling to read and constantly mixing up b and d in her writing. At the beginning of each year, we would ask the teachers and they would say she was too young to worry about dyslexia.

This year, she is in 4th grade. She is continuing to mix up b and d, is struggling with reading, and starting to really struggle with math. She started out the school year reading on a 1st grade reading level. With one-on-one help, she is up to a 3rd grade reading level. But, she still hates to read and really struggles with it. She hates to write and when she does, she misspells very simple words (tow for two, won't for want, etc.). She is mixing up numbers in math (61 for 16, etc.). We had discussed our concerns with her teacher at the beginning of the year, which is when they got her into Title 1 for the one-on-one reading help, and she agreed to watch her and help where needed.

While spending a day with my daughter trying to help her write for her science fair project, both of us became very frustrated with needing to fix letters and spelling, etc. I started researching dyslexia and found a list of 37 common characteristics. The site said that it is normal for someone with dyslexia to have 10 of these. I was easily able to identify 23. I then contacted the school with this list and told them I wanted something done. They evaluated her for an IEP and informed us at the meeting that she does not qualify, that she is too smart for an IEP. It was that night that our daughter was doing her homework and wrote down won't instead of want. She burst into tears wanting to know why if she was too smart for the school to help her, she couldn't even spell want. Talk about tearing this mom's heart out. I promised her I would not stop until I got her the help she needed.

I found a video about what dyslexia looks like for kids and showed it to her. She was so excited to see something that showed what she was experiencing. She said that the words become jumbled and move around the page and she has a hard time concentrating one what she is reading because her eyes are jumping all over the page. She does not experience colors on the pages.

A friend suggested cutting a rectangle out of a piece of paper so that as she reads, she can only see one line of text at a time. We tried it this weekend and it helped. But, she also picked up her book and started reading it upside down. I have occasionally seen her with books upside down, but never thought anything of it. Yesterday, while she was doing this, she did not need the paper with the rectangle. I asked her if it was easier for her to read this way and she said yes. She was reading with very little difficulty. If it was a very long word and she was struggling, she would turn the book the right way and get me to help her sound it out. She was so excited to show her dad that she could read upside down without problem.

I am so excited to see that there are others who are experiencing the same thing!

Hi Debra,
I am so glad to hear that this technique helps your daughter. I have worked with close to 40 severely dyslexic children and adults over the last 5 years and Print Inversion worked for most of them. My website, http://pireading.com has well over 100 videos of these individuals reading and writing both inverted and sideways.

In most cases, once the child is reading and writing fluently upside-down, they begin to "turn-it-over" and can read conventionally. Many have bragged to me that they can read any way they hold the book.

Please take a look at the website. I am available for tutoring both locally and on-line through SKYPE.

Best of luck,
Mr. Round

I home school my daughter and after a few months of struggling with reading I too found out that she could read better upside down... she will be 6 in November and is doing kinder / 1st grade work.

Lots more information about reading and writing upside-down added to my website since this was posted over two years ago...
See http://www.pireading.com

Teacherman

I've just discovered my 5 year old could do this by accident. He's having a little difficulty committing certain words to memory. I just instinctively and casually turned the book upside down and asked him to read. I couldn't believe my ears when he read it fluently. I quickly gave him a another book and he read it quicker than he ever has read before. I'll post again in a few weeks on his progress.