Late Readers

Do you worry about kids that are late readers?

My fourth child is eight years old and is still not reading. I keep telling myself that I’m not too worried about it. Her sister didn’t read till she was almost eight. I learned with her that it will come. That was after I stressed and grieved and panicked over the delay for a couple off years.

Why wasn’t she reading? My first two kids read by their fifth birthdays, and this third child didn’t even like sitting down to look at or listen to books. I pushed her to try. I used tried and true materials to teach her how to read. I bribed her with prizes. But all she wanted to do was play outside. Every day. All day. Then one summer, at nearly eight, she picked up some phonics readers at the library and began to read the words she knew and asked about the ones that she didn’t know. A few weeks later she picked up her Bible and “read” Genesis 1:1 and some from memory. She must have reread those first few verses 20 times over the next few weeks. Then she checked out a Harry Potter book from the library. Do you know how thick those are?! She loves the movies, so I let her get the book. She could only read a few sentences from her favorite part. I think she read about one and a half pages over the two weeks that we had the book. But she read.

That was about two years ago. Now at ten, she has just finished her first chapter book, Sarah, Plain and Tall (and Skylark). Not only did she read it, she fell in love with the characters. It was the first time she had experienced loving a story that she read. It was a short book, and she still needed help with some of the words, but now she’s looking for more books to read. She has found that joy.

Back to the fourth child. I’ve started to stress a bit over her not reading yet. Sure, her sister didn’t read till nearly eight, but now this girl is past that imaginary deadline, and I’m getting a little nervous. She enjoys being read to a few times a week. That’s a good sign, right? She can read a little when we do simple phonics lessons. She even messily sounds out some words to write down sometimes. So why hasn’t she decided to take on reading?

Just as I’m thinking about this little delay again, she insists she cannot read the words on the cover of the book she’s looking at, but reads the letters. P.E.O.P.L.E. of C.A.N.A.D.A. Was that what I thought I heard? Did she read “of” just that easily without realizing it even herself? And I realize it is happening. She is finally starting to read. There will be success after all.

It’s not going to happen tomorrow. It may take another year or more before she reads well. What will I do in the meantime? I’ll wait. I’ll read to her. I’ll let her experience life in other ways. I’ll talk with her. I’ll wait. I’ll show her videos. I’ll remind her kindly of all of the things I learn and enjoy by reading. I’ll continue to take her to the library for books she enjoys. I’ll wait.

It will happen. And when it does, when she finds that first book that she loves and devours ever so laboriously, it will have been worth the wait.

Summer/Fall 2013 Plans –Elementary

This is my preliminary plan for my 8 year old. It may change, but we have to start somewhere, right?

  • I plan to reinstate Bible reading time with the kids. This is something that we have gotten away from, but what could be more important? I need to make this a priority for all of us again. I haven’t chosen one yet, but I think we will do a One-year Bible reading plan together.
  • I purchased a Summer Bridges workbook for her that I plan to have her work through with help. This should give us a base for language and math skills. I like the idea of the short number of lessons. This fits in with my idea of focused learning.
  • I plan to pick up some phonics readers to work on her reading skills. She is still struggling in this area. While I believe that often the best solution to academic problems is to wait for some maturity, I also believe that giving her opportunities to be successful in reading simple materials should help her to become a better reader. We may also go back to How to Teach Your Child in 100 Easy Lessons if she is still interested.
  • I plan to use my Math U See blocks, a 100 chart, a number line made of beads to make math more concrete.
  • I plan to set up a mail box and write letters to her and have her write back to me.
  • She will listen in as I read from Story of the World and other great books that I am reading with the older kids.

We will start back this week with about thirty minutes to an hour a day unless we already have plans. Our days will vary. Most days from now till August will include review work in language and math and some reading aloud with the family. Once August arrives, we will move into full schedules.

What Does Delight Directed Learning Look Like (Part 3)

Let me preface this post by saying that it was the hardest of the three parts to write. I’m enjoying the fruits of the high school years. I am most passionate about the middle school years. I love the baby years. But the elementary years (somewhere between age five to eight or nine) are scary to me. I have seen 3 children go through this stage and the fourth is in the middle of it now . Each child in this stage develops at a different pace.  By middle school they even out to a great extent, but until then there can be great differences. Of my children, the first and second read by age five and the third and fourth by the age of eight.  The first and third were early walkers and writers, and the second and fourth were late walkers and writers. My approach was about the same, but they were made and responded differently.

“I don’t see what the difference is in a home setting whether the child reads at six or at eight. They still learn to read.”

Okay, that was my confident speech that I give myself often. Here’s the truth. I stress myself all the time about the little ones.

“Am I laying down the foundation that they need? Am I failing them? Am I too relaxed? Why aren’t they getting it yet? Why are they behind the other kids their ages?”

I’ve used a relaxed approach with all four kids. My 15 year old amazes me. My 12 year old has turned the corner and is becoming independent in his learning. My 10 year old finally picked up chapter books this year. I have one child left to watch through this time. It is still scary, but not as scary as it was the first couple of times through.  They do appear to be behind for the first few years, but they catch up and excel later.  I have to trust the process.

So what do I teach and what materials do I use?

Reading: Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons— I love this book. By the 13th lesson the child can read a three word story with an illustration, and they are so proud of themselves. It is simple but works. We never get through the whole book before they drop it for real books. That is the ultimate goal anyway. I want to help them fall in love with books.

Writing:  Assuming my child already knows how to form each letter on paper, these are ways I have found helpful in practicing writing naturally.

Have them copy from books, poems, songs that they love. They can write letters to siblings and friends. Set up mailboxes for them to play games that include writing. Have them take orders for dinner and write them down. There are so many ways to employ writing skills in everyday life.

I write for them sometimes too. I let them dictate a story to me and I write it out. They love reading their story in writing, and it makes them want to do more.

Math: I usually buy a workbook for them around age seven I buy the cheap $10 books because I know we will only do bits and pieces of it. I try to find hands on options when I can. I have a paper clock that I use to teach time. I teach measuring in the kitchen while baking cupcakes or when measuring how tall they have grown. I teach adding and subtracting, multiplying and dividing, even fractions with candy. I use the workbooks to keep an eye on where they should be, but it is definitely no big deal if we don’t use it if it is not what works. Sometimes what works are computer games and tablet apps. Our favorites are Jump Start, Reader Rabbit, and Math Missions.

Other:  They are also learning Bible from church and from talking about it as it comes up at home, science and social studies as we experience them in a natural setting, through good books, and through television programs like Wild Kratts and Liberty Kids.

I followed my own convictions in teaching them for a while before I found a name that defined what I was already doing. Charlotte Mason advocates a gentle approach to learning, and it really does work.