I wasn’t sure how to put these thoughts down on the page, and part of me wondered if I should even try. But something happened this week in our homeschool that put a huge smile on my face. And it was a smile I wanted to share with all the young, struggling homeschooling moms out there who are trying to teach their children to read.
I know of no other subject that makes even the most relaxed mom tense up. And despite all the other posts, and research and programs out there trying to calm people the hell down, I still hear moms of all stripes stressed about their child’s ability to read. The truth is, unless you are locking them in a closet all day or they are severely delayed in their development:
YOUR CHILD WILL READ. YES, I’M YELLING AT YOU. YOUR CHILD WILL READ.
How can I be so sure? Why should I expect you to take the word of a woman with no degree in education and no children currently enrolled in Harvard?
Because I know you care and I know you are going to do whatever it takes, and thankfully, for most of you, whatever it takes is not going to be extraordinary. For some whose children have a serious diagnosis, you will have to work harder but the fact is, there are programs and teachers and therapists out there for even the most severely delayed child. Unless you stop caring, your child will read.
I’m giving you all a huge pat on the back and letting you know that whatever you’re doing is working. I know that some days it seems like reading instruction is the most impossible thing in the world. I have been there. Try to not focus on how horrible today, or yesterday or last week was. Let me share the big picture.
Addie was pretty much a self-taught reader at four and a half and has been devouring books ever since. I naively thought that Byron would follow in her footsteps. I used all the same materials, did all the same things and four and a half, then five, then five and half came and went, and we were still struggling with letter sounds and basic words. I switched programs, again and again. I accused him of not trying, of silliness or defiance. But nothing I did worked. And I considered myself a failure, and my son was not yet six.
Eventually I learned he just didn’t get it and I backed off. Some family members made comments but I always said he was doing fine for his age and at grade level. At this point I started researching reading standards, methods, chatting with older moms and I calmed down. I stopped worrying. One of my goals has always been to produce children who love reading. I didn’t want to jeopardize that with Byron. We kept up daily practice and regular read alouds. I never stuck with a program that created tears.
Fast forward to last Monday, when 10-year-old Byron finished Tom Sawyer. He asked to read ‘The Hobbit’ for literature. I happily agreed. If you ask him, he’ll tell you one of his favorite authors is Ronald Dahl. While he doesn’t read as much as Addie, he reads and enjoys it. He reads aloud for his younger brothers without reservation. He can work independently on his lessons, reading chapters for history, geography and science without my assistance.
The boy who, when presented with the same word in a sentence three times had to stop and sound it out all. three. times, is reading ‘The Hobbit’ by choice. Your child will get there too. Hang in there. It will click, your child will read and you’ll get to soak in that moment.
My advice (which you are free to take or dismiss):
Read aloud daily. If you dislike reading aloud, check to see if you library offers picture books with a CD. For free stories, try LibraVox or Storynory. See if a grandparent would like to record themselves reading a favorite book for your child to listen to.
Have the child read aloud to you daily. Let them pick a book and you pick a book. Be patient in pointing out letter sounds, sight words, etc. If you, or they, start getting frustrated: STOP.
If your child struggles with letter sounds, practice the alphabet, even if they’re older. Try this book for some great games or for kids who hate workbook pages.
Let them see you reading.
Keep a variety of books (of all genres and reading levels) within their reach.
If you’re using a program that ties writing into reading/phonics and the writing component is making your child upset: STOP. Consider using an unlined whiteboard so they can practice writing without worrying about staying in the lines. (Eventually, your child will write legibly within the lines, I promise, but that’s a post for another day.)
Don’t try to force a reading program on your child just because it worked with an older child or was expensive.
Always use your gut. If you truly feel your child’s reading delay is caused by a developmental delay or other diagnosis get him or her evaluated by a professional (as opposed to say, the internet.) Don’t forget to have your child’s eyes examined to rule out glasses.
Some other resources:
Jim Trelease, The Read Aloud Handbook. Such a great book with lots of book suggestions.
Ten Things Struggling Readers Need series at This Reading Mama (So many resources on this site. Don’t overwhelm yourself with a Google or Pinterest search. Becky has a great variety of stuff here to meet most of your needs.)
And the best resource is always a trusted homeschooling mom with older children.
Pray for patience and hang in there. I’m on my fourth round of reading Bob Books, and I sympathize. (Still need more ideas and support? Don’t forget, I now offer homeschool consulting. Let’s work together to help plan a course for your struggling reader.)