Friday, February 19, 2010

One Mom's Advice on Learning to Read

This post is the result of a post on a mother's board of which I'm a member. The mom has a child that is a slow reader, compared to the other children in her class. I take issue with that word "slow", and I'll explain it below.

One of my children was also a "slow reader", this despite the fact that the child was talking in full complete sentences by the age of 3. I thought, silly mom that I was, that since the child spoke well, reading would be a snap.

One learns from one's mistakes.

But my failures taught me something about the process of reading. I'd like to share what I learned with others, and maybe it can help any child regardless of reading ability.

The first and most important step starts way before the child is born, and that is with the parents. Love of reaidng isn't genetic, but it is connected to how one lives ones life. If reading is important to mom and dad, there will be a better chance that reading will be important to children. So number one on my list is:

1. READ. Fill your shelves with books and read. Enjoy what you read. It doesn't matter if the books would make me happy, or your friends happy, or anyone happy if they make YOU happy, give you pleasure, make you feel you have grown from the book, learned something, have moved, mentally, from your seat on the bus or the couch or your bed to other lands and times or even different ideas. READ, and enjoy. If reading isn't pleasurable to you now, then I suggest that is because you haven't found the books that will please you. Branch out. Think creatively; the books don't have to be the most popular, meet the approval of classic majors or literary agents, the books need to please you.

2. Let your child SEE you reading. Baby on lap book in hand is a wonderful position to be in.

3. Wordless books are wonderful for children of all ages. There are beautiful wordless books where the art work is quite exquisite, and suitable for anyone who enjoys beauty. Tell the child what you see, ask the child what s/he sees, have the child tell you their story, write the story down or record it (then perhaps write it down) and the allow the child to read/listen to what they have created (yes even if they aren't really reading it but saying their story by heart.)

4. Audio-books are wonderful. There are a great many lovely stories now being produced that are available to listen to. Many of the books are classics, some come in written form, some may be only in audio form. But hearing a well told tale is important for developing reading skills later down the road. Podiobooks has a wide variety of books for all ages, but choose carefully, as some are ONLY meant for adults.

5. Basic readers are of course important, but there are so many to choose from. Don't feel that any one is the best, instead, try and borrow the various books and see which kind your child takes to. Some children are distracted by a lot of colorful pictures, others find lack of pictures dull. Some are attractive to silly, some like the straightforward text. Ones which are based on games or winning prizes are great for some and just annoying for others. It is immaterial which book succeeded with your cousin, best friend, which one the teacher recommends or which received five stars anywhere. If it doesn't work with your child, if your child is frustrated or reluctant to read that type of book, you need to try elsewhere. B"H there are so many wonderful primary readers available now, that while it may take time to find the one right for your child, it is most likely out there.

6. Do make sure if your child is behind that you have them tested for visual/hearing problems. Your child might simply need glasses or a hearing aide or other such help. It doesn't hurt to have them tested for learning disabilities either, but do read up on the subject and do not let anyone steer you into one support method or another. Examine them and decide what will work best for your child under your circumstances.There are many who consider "learning disabilities" to actually be different learning styles, and what needs to be adjusted is not that child, but the way the child learns. I think in this way home-schooled children have the advantage. School can be set up for their needs and not the other way around.

7. Let them read what interests them. I can not "read" Tom Jones. Obviously I can read the words but I find reading the book trying.  I made an effort, I forget what chapter I am on. I could, and may keep plugging away at it, but why? Interest breeds reading. There will at some point be a need to read what one doesn't like, and this is also a skill, but the important first step is to develop a love of reading. That is what will keep the child plugging away at a book they don't enjoy; the knowledge that there is a book TO enjoy. Graphic novels, comic books, books or magazines about animals, aviation, dinosaurs, weird inventions, joke and riddle and puzzle books. If it has sentences it counts.

8. Switch teachers, tutors, schools reading methods etc. Not every method is suitable for every child. I do not teach my 16 year old calculus, because I can not do as good as a job as my husband. Keep trying to find the style and teacher best for your child. If you are homeschooling perhaps the other parent is better at teaching reading. If your child is in a school, try switching their class or teacher or getting a tutor. Do not let anything get in the way of getting your child the best education for him or her.

9. Play reading games. Take turns reading, change words into other words by changing letters, or adding and subtracting letters. Play word scramble games, or word find games. Read in different voices and have your child read in different voices. Play with letter dice and or word dice. The games should be interesting and fun in their own right, that is even if your child is a skilled reader they should be fun and interesting.

10. Relax. Many children develop beautiful reading skills when they are older (8, 9, 10 etc.) and often soon catch up to or even surpass their peers. Early reading in school, grades 1-3, are based on mechanics of reading. If your child isn't reading it is vital to make sure they keep up with the vocabulary they need to know via audio-books and podcasts and your reading/talking with them. This is why by the way, children may be reading at third grade level when they are in kindergarten/first grade, but only be reading at 6th grade level when they are in 6th grade.

Here is one's moms story of her late reading child.

Remember, reading isn't or shouldn't be a contest. The goal isn't or shouldn't be about being the fastest either to actually read or to develop their skills, but about being the best reader for themselves, so that all throughout their lives they can continue to grow in knowledge and develop their mind. Pleasure in reading is vital to that goal. Keep your goal in mind and your child will do fine.


SuperRaizy said...

Wonderful post, full of good advice. As a special ed teacher, and the mom of two avid readers and one highly unenthusiastic reader, this is a topic that is close to my heart. Do you mind if I link to it?

Rachel Ann said...

Go ahead and thank you!

Leora said...

My slow to learn reader is very auditory. So she loves being read to. She has certain books that my husband reads to her, and certain books that I read to her. I was very excited yesterday when she said, Eema, I can read the Junie B. books!

I have two older boys that learned much quicker than she did, so I was scared she would never learn. But she had a wonderful reading teacher last year and a program called the Wilson program - and this was with only 4 children in the group. The Wilson program teaches only a few words at a time, so kids who are slower reader can take time to master reading.

FYI, I found you through Raizy.

Rachel Ann said...

Hi Leora and welcome~
I know the worries about the child "never reading"...isn't it wonderful when they get it? Once she "chapped" how to read she became a quick and voracious reader...but that wait for it to happen, I suppose like all "waits" is hard.