Learning to read is tough. It is tough for the parents teaching and it is touch for the kids who are learning. Though our first two read easily and early, Naomi (our third), didn’t learn to read till she was 9-10 and then our fourth, Daniel, was 11yo.
When Nomi was little she loved books, she liked to look at them, but she didn’t really like me reading to her (I nearly took offense at this!) I eventually I realised that she was more interested in the pictures and making up her own stories than reading someone else’s words. I backed off. It was tough because developmentally she gave me all the ready-to-read indicators but simply wasn’t interested. Every six months I would give it a shot, but after about 2 weeks of lessons I would lay them down, and leave it for a while.
In the meantime she did a lot of oral narrations and saw me writing the words that she said. And though she didn’t like being read to as a one-on-one activity she was okay with that as a part of our school work or family activity.
My son on the other hand had a learning difficultly which meant that we just kept plugging away at it, taking breaks when either of us became overwhelmed at how hard it was! We tried different programmes and continued with surrounding him with good stories, as well as the oral narrations as we did with Naomi.
I share our story because I think it gives context to some of the challenges we face in teaching our kids to read. Also it is good to be reminded that the kids you see reading now, didn’t always read, they weren’t born that way, they had a learning process (just as yours may be going through.)
Here are some of the lessons I’ve learnt along the way:
- Different kids do have different paths, it may take a while, keep revisiting it. Don’t compare or have expectations.
- If you are at all concerned about a learning difficulty/delay then see if you can have her tested, or at least check out the internet and see if anything lines up for you. You don’t need to label your child but you could find some strategies to help her learn from this process.
- Take it easy. Keep lessons short and focusing on one thing – one sound, one blend.
- Don’t change programmes unless you have a really good reason to. Phonics is phonics – tweak what you have to match what you know about your kids before you look to another programme for the answers.
- Give it a break if they are overwhelmed, or even if you are overwhelmed. A stressed out mother is no help to instil a love of reading.
That being said, both Naomi and Daniel are now avid readers – well and truly caught up to their ‘reading age’.
Some other factors that encourage a love of learning, a love of reading, a love of books:
- Read yourself – read to learn, read for pleasure. Share snippets or summaries from your books – share the things you find interesting, funny, or even annoying. Talk with your kids about what you are reading.
- Fill your house with interesting books – the librarian is your friend!
- Make sure the books in your house grow with your kids – let your kids move on and find new favourites
- Recognise that your children may have different tastes from each other. Peter and I have different tastes – it is a thing of our personalities – our kids will have different tastes.
- Teach your children to choose good books – define ‘good’ for your family.
- Stop and listen to your kids talk about what they are reading, learning and enjoying. Get into their world. Ask questions and encourage them to think while they read.
One last thought: Teaching our kids to read requires patience. The definition of patience is “Accepting a difficult situation without giving a deadline to remove it.” (Character First).
- We need to accept the difficult situation (our kids learning to read)
- Without giving it a deadline (by the time they are six, or in grade 2, by the end of this curriculum, or …)
- For them to be done with it (the reading lessons)
Learning to read will take time. It takes a loving, patient, and enthusiastic teacher. Do you have your eyes on the end product (a child who can read) or are you enjoying the process with your child. Loving them, accepting them for where they are at and being patient with the things they find hard? Are you enthusiastic about reading yourself, or has it become the dreaded lesson that just has to be done?