February 16, 2011

Guest Post on Struggling Learners


Welcome to Stephanie Charlot as she talks about reading struggles with her son, Alexander.

I watched my oldest child teach herself to read.  It was a beautiful thing to see, and I'm glad I stayed in the background, simply reading to her and answering her questions as they came up.  In the months surrounding the time when she really took off, she stopped doing almost anything else and wanted to be reading all the time.  Within a year, she was far ahead of her age in reading level.  She remains a voracious reader to this day, and can hardly remember a time when she could not read. 
I was aware that my daughter's reading ability was exceptional for her age, but I assumed my other children would follow the same general pattern when they learned to read, only perhaps at a somewhat older age, and perhaps a bit more slowly.   I thought that in their own time, a similar "ah-ha" process would unfold.  It was not to be.  My second child, Alexander, took a much different path.
I want to say at the outset that Alexander does not have any significant learning disabilities that we are aware of.  He may have some trouble with working memory (which would complicate learning to read), but he has not been evaluated for that, and it seems clear he does NOT have dyslexia or other severe issues.   He's simply a normal, intelligent boy who struggles with reading.
Our saga might have been easier had Alexander not cared about learning to read until he was 7 or 8.  Many young children who are not developmentally ready are also not yet interested, and all they need is a little more time.  But whether it was because he got tired of waiting for others to read to him, or because he found himself in the shadow of a sister whose reading ability was so advanced, Alexander began to complain about not being able to read around age six.  I encouraged him to take the casual approach:  "You *are* learning to read," I told him.  "Keep trying, keep asking questions, and it will happen!  We’ll get a few very-easy-reader books for you to get started."  Thus, we began.  While he made tiny steps of progress, the going was discouragingly slow.  We got some of the delightful David Milgrim books about Otto the Robot from the library.  The Otto books are a fun take-off on Dick and Jane, so they read like, "See Otto.  See Otto run.  Run Otto, Run!"  (The picture shows Otto being chased by a rhinosourus.  Run indeed!)  Alexander had to stop and sound out “Otto” -- usually incorrectly -- every. single. time.  Even when I pointed out that it was the same word as he had sounded out 20 seconds ago, it didn't help.   We were both becoming frustrated and discouraged, so we took a break for a while.  A few months later we tried again, nothing improved, and I began to reflect on the fact that Alexander had never exhibited many pre-reading skills.  Hmmm.  I began to wonder if he might need stronger guidance.
Stephanie Charlot has been homeschooling since 2005.  She lives with her husband and three children in Michigan.

Join Stephanie tomorrow as she continues her story about her son's reading struggles.


Crystal said...

so bummed the post is left hanging :) This describes my son/daughter too. My oldest son learned to read very quickly and my next child (daughter) the process has been much harder on her and she wants to read. She too has trouble recognizing a word she just read. Look forward for tomorrows post.

No Ordinary Me said...

I totally can relate with my children. Oldest is a super reader and learned on his own in some way and my daughter struggles so much.