Executive Function Strategies Blog

Helping Forgetful Kids: The Case of the Mislaid Novel


“Mom, where’s my backpack?”

“Mom, I can’t find my favorite shirt!”

“Mom, can you help me re-attach my head? It fell off again.”

Chances are, you’ve heard variations on the first two statements, and have probably imagined the third at some point. (Of course, if you’ve actually heard #3 above, you may be reading the wrong blog. Just sayin’...)

Our adult lives are hectic. There are always places to be and tasks to complete. Our kids’ lives are just as fast-paced much of the time. They have 22 minutes from waking until getting to the bus stop. They have 4 minutes in between classes to pop by their lockers and get their science notebook and to jam their sweaty gym clothes into a dark corner. And at the end of the day, with their minds on soccer practice or dance class or the latest gossip about who-said-what-to-whom, is it any surprise that they forget to bring home the paperback novel they’re reading for English homework?

As parents, it’s easy to feel frustrated when your child forgets his materials for homework at school. Likewise, teachers don’t take kindly to it. And kids who struggle with executive function skills due to ADHD or other challenges don’t enjoy experiencing this type of failure over and over, either. So, a little empathy can put us in the right mindset to dig into this problem. As coaches, we have a number of ways we go about helping forgetful kids remember their primary job, schoolwork.

Today, we’ll narrow the lens to a typical forgetfulness issue with a particular academic subject.

Keeping Track of That Paperback

One common problem we see is that students forget reading materials for English. That play or novel is another item to keep track of, a smaller object amidst the bulky binders and heavy textbooks. As for keeping track of the book itself, a three-hole punched zippered pouch can work well as a dedicated holder for the current paperback your child’s class is reading. It can’t slip and slide its way to the bottom of the locker, or scatter onto the floor in a rush to pack up at the end of class. A post-it note reminder attached to the front cover to return the book to its home often helps students maintain this habit.


Another handy tip is that much of the classic literature that students are assigned is in the public domain. Everything from Macbeth to The Great Gatsby, to Death of a Salesman and To Kill a Mockingbird can be found free online as PDF files. Help your child locate the online source and bookmark it, using the book title as the bookmark label to make it easy to identify. That way, if a book is misplaced or left at school, reading homework can still be completed. No excuses!

But Wait, There’s More!

A huge bonus with using online versions is that the text is searchable! Let’s say your child is writing an essay about Boo Radley from To Kill a Mockingbird. She can hit “command F” on her keyboard and a search box pops up in the upper right hand corner. She types in Boo Radley and sees that it comes up 32 times in the book. She can scroll down through the text efficiently to locate exactly what she needs without flipping through pages of text. Using a PDF is also a great error-free way to extract quotes, without having to retype everything for that essay.


Today you've seen just a couple specific methods to help students remember their materials and keep up with their reading assignments in English class. Our Executive Function coaches have many more strategies for helping forgetful kids. Click below to learn more about how we teach students to be more effective (and help them keep their heads attached).

Executive Function Skills Assessment to find out if Executive Function coaching is a good fit for a student.

Jackie Stachel is the Public Relations Director for Beyond BookSmart. She joined the company in 2010 and is based in our Boston branch.  Jackie leads Executive Function presentations for parent groups throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Additionally, Jackie manages our You Tube channel as well as our company blog content through editing submissions, writing articles, and collaborating with professionals from outside Beyond BookSmart to create useful, informative content. Finally, Jackie coaches students supporting them in learning and developing Executive Functioning strategies.

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