I have one boy who struggles with reading. Our pediatrician told me, a few years ago, that reading is one of the hardest things for a person to learn.
Our beginning was not good. I tried, multiple times, to teach the ABC’s. It did not help that I was trying to teach the Aleph Bais at the same time. His younger brother, who I was not officially teaching yet, was picking it up better than he was. I decided that it was probably best for my child’s self-esteem if his younger brother did not learn the letters yet.
This child’s older brother finished the entire kindergarten curriculum in 6 months, picked up reading basically on his own I believe – I do not think I really taught the reading part very well, but he picked it up anyways, and he ran with it. He has been a book worm ever since.
The boy in question, however, was the total opposite. Many days I would wonder if he really was trying, and other days I could see that he was, but it did not seem to matter if he was trying or not, it just was torture for the both of us. Most “schooling” involves a lot of reading and writing and worksheets, even homeschool learning. When my son was in kindergarten, I read everything to him, and wrote it all down. When it came to reading, it was 90 minutes of yelling, begging, tantruming, and crying for the both of us. It was work that should have only taken 20 minutes, but every day, without fail, 90 minutes of torture. I dropped the Hebrew reading very quickly, figuring that in the summer hopefully my son would have gotten the hang of English reading, at least a little bit, and we would focus on the Hebrew. Half way through the year I was desperately looking for something to replace the reading we were doing. It was not good for either of us. The other subjects were learned just fine if I read and wrote things down. He was able to talk to me about the subject and about what we had just learned, and he was usually very excited about it all.
One day I saw an email from one of the homeschooling groups I was on. Someone did not need the reading program they were using anymore for she had just finished it with their last child and wanted to pass it along. (It was Hooked on Phonics.) I immediately wrote back asking how much they wanted for it and was very nicely amazed to find out she wanted to give the entire set away for free – she got her money’s worth with her 6 children.
By this time, my son could sound out very simple 3 letter short-a vowel words, but very slowly. When I got the books, I looked them over, and then sat down with my child. I told him we were going to start at the very beginning, even though I know he knows the stuff. I would like him to know the stuff better (and then I demonstrated how fast he needed to read the words.) What I liked about the program is that you can sit for any length of time you want. You do not have to finish a certain amount of stuff in a sitting. The program is meant to be taken and each section repeated as many times as necessary and it is okay if repetition is needed. We would sit together, just the two of us, and read until I felt it was enough, usually either 10 or 15 minutes – just enough time to do some work, but not long enough to cause him to get too frustrated and throw a tantrum. I would make sure I would praise him a lot for each milestone. He started to enjoy it, and very rarely did he try to fight me. This worked, for in just over a year he finished the whole program.
What I have learned since then is that he is a whole word recognition person. It is easier for him to memorize a word than it is to sound it out. I have not done much research on this, and perhaps I should. Honestly, right now I do not have the drive to do so for I do not think it is going to help much, but I could be dead wrong. My whole philosophy has been (especially with him) is to try to get each child to WANT to read. If they want to read, they will read, and eventually they will get there, however long it takes. It has been a long push for the two of us, especially since it did not take very long before the younger brother got ahead and into a higher reading level. I have tried to make the fact that the younger one reads better a non-issue. Each of us has our own strengths. For the most part I think that has worked.
The curriculum that I use for my boys has the parent reading all the material to the child until about the 4th grade for the main reason is that the readings are usually at a higher level than the child can read. Some children can read some of the work before that time, and that is fine. This was something that really made me like the program for my intelligent son could continue on in his studies while he works on his reading and not get left behind. Lately, there have been times when he ASKS me if HE could read! If appropriate, I will let him try, if not, I will tell him I am happy he is excited, but we need to find something else for him to read instead. Slowly the hard work is paying off. I see him reading more and more lately, and the readings are becoming more advanced.
That is, his English reading is more advanced. Hebrew is a totally different story. I think the difference is that he does not know the Hebrew language. He cannot speak Hebrew. In English, at least he can try to guess the word if he has too for he understands what the words around it mean. He cannot do that in Hebrew. He knows the letters but still gets mixed up with the nekudos. Trying to make him read the words while he davens instead of reciting it by memory is torture. My son is in the 4th grade and is maybe on a 1st grade Hebrew reading level (whatever that means).
This past week I was thinking about something that my husband and I were talking about. We were talking about how children mature and that the body and the mind both mature at the same time. I was thinking about my son – nope, he is definitely NOT there yet! 🙂 However, I know at eventually he will get there, they all do. So, if he is not maturing yet physically, then mentally he is not there yet either and perhaps I should not be worrying so much about the reading. The English reading is getting there. He loves languages, and we are having him go through Rosetta Stone in Hebrew and he is really doing well. Maybe I should take a step back, take a deep breath and just wait. He’ll get there.