Special Note: Please excuse this post being so pronoun heavy. I asked my 8 year old if he was comfortable with me using his name or nickname in this piece and he asked me to refer to him by pronouns only. Out of respect for his wishes he will not be referred to by name. Ironically enough he did agree to post his pictures as long as I let him choose them.
Me and my husband prayerfully made the decision to homeschool when my oldest son was 4. I was already teaching him through play and crafts so the decision to continue with home education wasn’t a long stretch for us.
My son did so well for so long that I was truly blindsided when he began to regress. There is no way to describe the immense sense of failure and frustration I felt as I watched him struggle to move forward in his reading.
I started teaching phonograms so early that by the time he was ready to start reading he could basically sound out anything we gave him. Then one day I noticed that my oldest son went from reading fluently to struggling to sound words out.
He was misreading words he’d previously known. And he even started struggling with letter reversals. I was at a loss. I attributed his sudden deterioration to everything from laziness, attitude problems, dyslexia, and any other reading issue I happened to google.
Eventually, we discovered that his eyesight was the real problem. As he progressed from early readers to more difficult books the font changes and smaller font sizes made reading increasingly difficult for him. I figured that once we addressed his vision problem he would pick up right where he left off.
A year of struggling had severely damaged his reading-esteem. My oldest is a natural born perfectionist (he got it honest) and anything he can’t do well IMMEDIATELY frustrates him. His younger brother started reading on his own right around the time my oldest started struggling and that made him feel even worse. His little brother would read over his shoulder and try to ‘help’ him when he’d stumble over a word. But all that ‘help’ did was ruin his day. Reading was no longer fun for him.
He still enjoyed writing stories and being read to. But he hated when it was his turn to read to me. In his defense I was a frustrated rage monster.
1) Parental Attitude Adjustment
Once we addressed the issue with his eyesight we had another problem to face. I realized that I was showing obvious signs of frustration while he was reading. When he read too slowly or reversed letters I would huff or fuss. I refused to ‘let up’ when he started refusing to read and would spend LONG INTENTIONAL periods of time sounding out the same word over. and over. AND OVER. AND OVER. AND O.V.E.R.
I needed an attitude adjustment. It took a lot of prayer to get me back on the right track. I stopped showing signs of frustration when he read. Frustrated or not I would sit there calmly and let him work his way through. No huffs, no puffs, and absolutely no fussing. If either of us felt overwhelmed we would take a break and start again later. Sometimes later was tomorrow. I started praising his efforts (opposed to demanding perfection) and I also stopped little Mr. Know-it-All from reading over his shoulder and correcting him.
The results were nothing less than amazing. Soon he began asking to read to me instead of being forced to read. That was a small miracle in itself. There are no more 30 minute stand offs to sound out words and most importantly there is no anxiety. Without my attitude adjustment my son would probably have grown to hate reading more and more as we battled on.
2) The Word Journal
A notebook is a very simple tool that can work wonders with reluctant readers. Before the word journal we were either having stand-offs about words he couldn’t figure out that I knew he had the tools to decode or I was frustrating him by telling him a word he was still actively trying to figure out.
Now he journals. I let him try at a word until he asks for help. Judgement free. If he figures it out (which he usually does) then great. If he requests assistance I help and then he writes the word in his word journal.
After we finish reading he goes back and writes the word 3 times while spelling it aloud as he writes. This has improved his reading and handwriting. Journaling also improved his story telling because he purposely logs words he thinks will be good in one of his future stories.
My oldest son has always been very independent and he truly enjoys getting to decide when he gets help and how much help he receives. I would recommend a word journal to any parent.
3) Confidence Boosting Reading
I know. I know. Our kids should only read exceptionally well written literature. We should only give them classics. Our bookshelves should only hold literature’s greats. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. BLAH.
While I agree with giving children good literary works I also believe a little fluff is helpful every now and again. My oldest son needed books that were fun and easy to rebuild his reading-esteem once he received his glasses.
I gave him easy chapter books. I looked for short books that had a lot of pictures to break up the words. He didn’t feel like a baby because they were chapter books but he also wasn’t frustrated by them being overly difficult. After a few fluffy little boy chapter books he was on a roll.
He LOVES (and I do mean loves) Minecraft. I made it a point to go out and buy him anything with a zombie or pickaxe on the front.
I can happily say that today I have an 8 year old who enjoys reading and writing about Minecraft as much as he loves playing Minecraft. The changes I made may seem small but they worked wonders for my child’s confidence when it came to his reading abilities.
Did any of your children struggle while learning to read? Leave me comment explaining how you helped them over the hump.