A Few Thoughts on Reading Difficulties

Reading is so important to learning. Once a person can read, a whole world of information becomes available to him. For this reason, we strive to teach our kids to read when they are five or six years old. And most of the time this works. But sometimes, sometimes, the child is just not ready or has a hard time learning how to read.

I have a late reader. A couple actually. One of them started reading around her eighth birthday, and reads fairly proficiently now. She is a hands on learner and does not love reading. None the less, she reads. She reads story books, comics, and non-fiction books. Her favorite ones are craft books.

My second late reader is ten now and is a beginning reader still. Some days I get discouraged. I mean, reading at eight is one thing. But ten? Yikes, I’m feeling it! Alas, there is hope.

Don’t give up. Learning to read takes time. Be patient.

Take a break. Sometimes the child is just not ready.

Try different approaches. Different learning styles may require other ways to get to the end goal. My first two kids read books of any kind after only minimal and very informal phonics instruction. My third child required rereading a short text many times to memorize those words and then started reading chapter books of movies she liked so that she would already know what she was reading about. And my last child needs phonics readers that are organized and slowly growing in difficulty.

Make it fun. Make reading a time to look forward to. Sometimes this means I read to her more than she reads to me. It also means letting her choose the books. She needs the phonics readers, but they are not interesting. We use those for instruction, but we make sure to read more books of interest. It is important that she has a good opinion of the act of reading.

Look for progress. The skill of reading is not just A and Z. There are lots of little steps in between. Celebrate those little victories. They add up. I still see her as a beginning reader. But when I look at the little books we started with a year ago (with a new approach) compared to the books she is reading now, there has been great progress. She isn’t reading where the “average” ten year old reads, but she has made a year of progress.

Notice other successes. Reading is important, but it is not everything. Find out what the child is good at. Is she a good builder? Athletic? A story teller? A cook? Knowledgeable about science? A good friend? Make sure that you value those things about her. Build her up. Encourage her in what she is naturally good at. I guarantee she already knows where she stands in reading when it is difficult for her. She knows other kids are ahead of her. Work on those reading skills, but don’t forget to focus on all of the good things too!

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 Reading

It is time to sign up for the Summer Reading Program at the library. We use our library heartily all year round, but great things happen during the Summer program too. The kids are extra motivated to read lots of books  and also to push what they perceive to be their ability to read.

It is free and fun. I hope you will use this great resource for your family. I know we will.