Compare Child’s Progress to his/herself
Two years ago, I was reminded of the importance of comparing my child’s progress to herself and not to others, and found great encouragement in this. My sons learned to read when they were three years old (two with a solid phonics approach and one with a greater emphasis on whole word learning). They all enjoyed learning and playing school with me.
It’s Okay to Be Different
My daughter marches to the beat of a different drum!Okay, that’s very cliché but it really fits! She has really struggled with learning to read, learning math, anything even remotely educational. Her temperament, personality, and learning style are very different from my sons. After struggling to teach her, I placed her in public school in the US for the fall of first grade. She began making progress, but rapidly declined her second semester when attending an American curriculum school overseas. We placed her in a different school when starting second grade, but after a few weeks realized she really needed to repeat first grade. While repeating first grade (in a new environment) she began gaining confidence in her ability to learn, and began making progress. One night I was briefly saddened to see a note from the teacher remarking how she was behind her classmates in reading and needed to practice more.
In the past I had worked with her on learning to read some phonics story sheets I had made. She could make it through the simplest ones…but even those were challenging for her…and after reading one she was ready to stop. This particular time I pulled out the story sheets and a few simple readers and sat down with her to practice reading. After reading a few stories (amazing me that she didn’t quickly shut down and want to quit), she looked up at me and said: “Mommy, I’m reading! Can I read in class?” She read several more stories before going to bed. Granted, they were very simple stories using short phonics sounds, but she was excited about reading them. Her class has probably moved on to stories that contain a lot of sight words (or words they had not learned the rules of) making it difficult for her to read in class. It is exciting to see a child motivated and retaining new information.
Children learn at different times, at different rates, and in different ways
Throughout my more than 20 years teaching kids to read, I have often heard and known that “children learn at different times, at different rates, and in different ways.” I have often attempted to encourage other parents to track their child’s progress and compare it to what he was able to do a month ago, 6 months ago, and a year ago. Just as children grow physically at differing rates, having growth spurts at different times, their learning also happens in spurts, often differing from their siblings or classmates. Parents need to understand that learning to read takes several years and their children need to feel successful at each step of the journey.
One day I wrote a simple note to my daughter and left it on the table for her to discover at breakfast time. She found it, said “What’s this,” and promptly began to read it. She giggled with delight and exclaimed over that note several times. Another day she was mad at me and wrote me a “letter.” It was mostly a bunch of scribbles with a sad face at the end. Sometimes when she does this I ask her to tell me what it says, so she tells me. This particular time I said, “Darling, I’d really like to be able to read your letter but you did not write any real words for me to read.” I was just trying to diffuse her anger not make an educational moment out of it. However, she promptly returned to her room and copied something in her room and brought that to me. She copied a Bible verse from the wall, clueless as to what it actually said. I praised her for her neat handwriting and then proceeded to read out loud what she had written. It was a very encouraging verse; when I finished reading it, she hugged me and told me she was sorry for being angry.
Writing aids reading. Encourage your children to write lists, copy things around the house, and leave notes. Writing in meaningful situations leads to their ability to read what they have written.
In the past when I have read to my daughter, she would hide a word on the page and ask me how to spell it (smiling and certain she would stump me this time with a difficult word…like skunk or tree or beach). She is always amazed that I get it right! This makes me smile, but not as much as the day she said: “Mommy, I’m reading!”
Links to Free Books to Assist Older Children in reading (and phonics)