Spring is here, we’ve all moved past February burnout (hopefully) and the end of the school year is rapidly approaching- thank goodness!!!!!! But in the back of your mind there may be a nagging feeling that your child isn’t reading as well as you’d hoped. You wonder if your child can catch up by June, and panic starts to set in as you realize your child’s friends are reading better than he is, and you remember your older child was already onto a higher level of books by this point. You start Googling terms like ‘dyslexia’ and ‘learning disabilities’ and scouring the archives of all the Facebook homeschooler groups. And then finally he drops a bombshell- your child hates reading! How did this happen???
I’ve been there! I still spend days second guessing my teaching and wondering if this child or that child will achieve some “grade level” goal. But having been in the trenches for awhile now I can say that concerns about reading are some of the most common I see. And honestly, it doesn’t matter how many times a veteran homeschooling mom like myself tries to reassure a young mom that it’s TOTALLY OKAY AND NORMAL that their five year old isn’t reading fluently, most moms continue to worry anyway. But, I’m going to try to reassure y’all once again that yes, your child will read, and in the mean time present you with some ideas of what to do when you and your child are frustrated with reading.
Take a Break
Rather than sticking to your usual daily reading lesson, do more read alouds, or put on an audio book. Let your child reread some of their favorite books, or watch movie versions of good books. Now is a great time to take field trips or plan some extra outdoor activities. You can still point out sounds and help them read things like a Saturday morning pancake recipe, a park sign, or museum exhibit, etc. but make reading part of other activities and set aside the formal program for a few days or a week.
Switch Up Your Reading Program
I do not advise you do this lightly. Usually, a child just needs a break, not a complete change, but sometimes kids (and parents) can burnout on a program and it makes sense to set it aside and choose something new. It might work to simply supplement what you’re using with a new set of readers, or new workbook, a few apps, and keep the bulk of the program. You could also take the material your child is using and present it in a new way with a game or through full body activities. As a last resort, if your child hates reading, you can investigate a new program all together. Be sure to pinpoint what isn’t working with the old program and what your child’s specific struggles are before trying to select a new program. Make sure you are also putting in the work the curriculum requires and not expecting more from your child than what’s reasonable without the necessary input from you.
Read in bed, read outside under a tree or at a picnic table at a local park. Go to the library or read at the beach. Not every lesson can be special, but sometimes it helps to get out of a rut by switching up the usual routine simply by visiting somewhere new.
Give More One on One Attention
If you’ve got several kids vying for your attention, it always easier to toss a workbook at a kid and walk away rather than sit and review phonograms (which is my personal Hell). But some kids need you to sit and review phonics with them. If you’ve taken a hands-off approach and your child seems to be behind, set aside a block of time to work with them one on one, even if everyone else in the house needs to be bribed with a screen. Commit to that small chunk of time every day and see if it doesn’t make a difference. (And speaking from experience, it does, and they even start working harder on that workbook because now they know you’re reliably checking it.)
Let dad take on reading after work, or a patient middle school aged sibling can help (even if you need to pay them in candy.) Let them know what needs done and let them take over for a week or two. If you’re feeling especially burnt out and frustrated with reading, consider hiring a tutor (which could simply be a mother’s helper) to review reading for a bit. Or if you choose to hire a professional, they may be able to take over and provide you with guidance for the days they’re not there, and give advice for how to handle reading going forward. Sometimes kids just need to answer to someone else and you may be surprised what they’re able to learn, and how quickly they can do it, when you’re not the teacher (which is SUPER galling to realize, but helpful when you accept it). While your child hates reading under your tutelage, she may love it when someone else is around.
Make Sure You Are in a Good Mood
This seems obvious enough, yet there were many days I angrily headed into reading lessons with my kids, still steamed from some other mishap. When they couldn’t remember the proper sound for ‘ou’, I freaked out. Way to instill that love of learning Kelly!!! If reading isn’t your favorite subject (and let’s be honest; 100 Easy Lessons can easily kill the soul of most moms) make sure you’re scheduling reading practice when you’re more likely to be in a good mood. If you are having a bad day, do something to change your attitude before attempting to tackle a subject that is obviously hard for your child.
Make Sure Your Child is in a Good Mood
Is he tired, hungry, in pain, suffering from a full bladder or need to poop? (It’s true way too often to not mention.) Does she need a longer break, and time to run around outside before sitting down to work on reading? See if he works better in the morning, or afternoon. You could even give him a choice. Watch your child and learn how she works best and try to accommodate their unique learning style when practicing reading. A little flexibility on your part can make your child more cooperative and happier to sit down and get to work.
Learning to read takes time. Unless a child has a serious learning disability or intellectual delay, they will eventually learn to read, even if your child hates reading right now. In the mean time, remember to focus on your child’s strengths; they are more than their reading struggles. Leave school problems to school time and have fun the rest of the day. Don’t make every moment of the day a teachable moment for some reading lesson. And be sure to redirect well-meaning family members who always harp on your child’s abilities or try test them to see how they’re doing. Let you child know they don’t need to demonstrate anything for anyone if they don’t want to. And be sure to celebrate the little victories. When your child does hit a milestone, celebrate it! Even if it comes much later than you think it should. Those moments will motivate your child to keep working even when it’s hard.
So there’s are my thoughts on reading. I’m writing them down as a reminder to myself as much as anyone. It can be really hard to watch a child struggle to learn to read, especially an older child (>9 years of age), but as I’ve matured as a homeschooler, I’m able to roll with it and keep the big picture in mind, even if today was hard.