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Aphantasia and reading

Mary Winter asked 9 months ago

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I have heard that aphantasia can take away the pleasure of reading for some people. I am a teacher, and would be grateful for any strategies you can suggest that would enhance the pleasure of reading for those who find visualisation difficult.

ANIKA BRKIC December 13, 2019 02:53 pm

I have aphantasia, and have always loved reading. Some other aphants say they don’t enjoy fantasy and sci-fi books as much, but those are my favorite genres. I enjoythe worlds, plots, and characters aven though I can’t see them in my mind. Maybe try letting the students for whom lack of mental images is a problem, realistic fiction could be a better choice than things like fantasy. One thing is that I would always be confused when teachers would tell me to make it like a movie in my mind.

I think it’s great that you are doing this for your students, and I hope more teachers will do this too!

Rachel C December 13, 2019 09:30 pm

I feel like graphic novels are a good bet as well; I read V for Vendetta in high school as a graphic novel and loved it.

Also, in that same class, my teacher put on the movie version of Hamlet while we read through the actual play, and it also was very fun but also helped. I’m not sure what grade you’re teaching, but using (good) book movies was effective for me.

Lindsay Pulsipher December 16, 2019 04:32 pm

I’m an English teacher (high school) with Aphantasia. I love reading, especially sci-fi & fantasy. My husband is a hyperpahnt who doesn’t enjoy reading most of the time and prefers history/biographies when he does read. I have always tested high in my reading ability.

Here’s my experience both as a student and as a teacher –

If you quiz students about irrelevant details to be sure they read something, it can be more difficult. This seems to be true for most students, but especially those of us with Aphantasia. Some Aphants memorize the facts about charaters or places, but not all. Focus on the meaning of the book, the emotions of the characters, the order of events and why that is important. Discuss passages with students.

Students accross the spectrum of visual ability do and don’t enjoy reading. For me, it’s about finding what things interest a student. What shows do they like to watch? What hobbies do they like? Do they get exhausted trying to read long passages. It’s all the same things we (teachers) learn when it comes to teaching students. If a student doesn’t like to read, find out why. If it’s because they can’t visualize it, maybe let them watch a movie version if it’s available and ask them to pick out some of the differences. Or ask them to draw or make a video of a passage.

If someone doesn’t enjoy reading (and many of my students don’t) ask what they don’t like. It turns out, many of my students don’t like reading because they don’t think of magazines, graphic novels, and video game text as reading. Once they realize they like one (or more) of these things, sometimes I can bulid on that – aphantasia or not.

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