Physical coordination and reading are related

Physical coordination and reading are related because physical exercise and brain function are related. Some exercises for kids are particularly important to reading, especially for boys, but how can you find time for them?

Activities like skipping, dribbling, and jumping rope help coordinate the left and right sides of the brain and build pathways of communication which may be used for reading. This type of activity is particularly important for children who are cross dominant.

In my years as a Title I reading specialist I found that 2 out of 3 struggling readers had dominance issues and problems at the midline. These problems may be treated with physical coordination exercises and purposeful activities crossing the midline, but careful thought must be given to scheduling time for this type of intervention.

Children who can skip generally read better than those who can't.

Making Time to Work on Coordination Skills

Coordination Exercises as Centers

One way for children to learn to skip, dribble, jump rope, and balance on a balance beam is in centers. However, direct instruction is required for some children to learn these physical skills.

The idea that children learn to skip by "just doing it" is a false one, and sometimes a great deal of intensive instruction is required to teach a child to skip. Even more instruction may be required to teach children to jump rope individually, with a "double hop" which establishes a steady beat.

Coordination Camp

If your classroom is not organized in centers, another way to organize this critically important intervention is by finding time in your schedule to hold Coordination Camps. Children can learn a great deal in 15 or 20 minutes, and getting them coordinated is too important not to find the time to do so.

In Coordination Camp for second graders I focused on three critical skills:

  1. Skipping
  2. Jumping rope individually with double hop
  3. Sustained dribbling with each hand separately

It takes a lot of energy and enthusiasm to teach physical coordination skills to kids, and they need a lot of encouragement. Building upon their success is important, and celebrations are a must.

I created a Double Hopper Award with a certificate which I gave to all students who were able to jump rope 12 times in a row with the "double hop" which establishes that important steady beat.

My children worked so hard to earn this award - they even practiced at home with jump ropes I gave to them.

Classroom teachers reported that they were more confident, participated more, and that their general class attitude improved. So did their reading fluency!

Go to Movement and Learning from Physical Coordination and Reading

Go to Brain Exercises from Physical Coordination and Reading

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Ask the Professionals

Teachers often do not realize how critical physical education is to reading. For kids who are cross and mixed dominant and for those who have trouble at the midline, the work of physical education teachers is absolutely essential.

So another way to get kids coordinated is to enlist the help of your PE teachers.

This PE referral form may be used to refer students to the experts - your physical education staff.

Coordination Screenings

At the beginning of each year, children should be screened either by their classroom teachers or their physical education teachers. This screening should include a dominance profile in order to identify those children who are cross or mixed dominant so that they may be treated with a rich assortment of activities which cross the midline.

Proficiency in the following skills should also be checked at the beginning of each new school year:


•Jumping rope, individually, with a double hop

•Walking on a balance beam, heel to toe

•Dribbling a ball with each hand individually

•Bouncing and catching a tennis ball with both hands at the midline

Both classroom teachers and physical education professionals may then use the information from these screenings to provide appropriate, targeted instruction to those children who need help with physical coordination.

For struggling readers, it can make all the difference.