Tips for the Struggling Young Reader
- Monday, April 25, 2005
"Children with speech difficulties often have trouble learning to read," said my son's speech pathologist. "You'll need to watch him closely."
I politely thanked her for her help and inwardly decided not to believe her. After all, Stephen was my deepest thinker. There was obviously no problem with intelligence. After a while, however, it became apparent to me that my son wasn't learning the same way his older siblings had. Besides struggling with clear speech and academics, he also took longer to learn large motor skills, like riding a bike. I realized the curriculum I'd used with the older children wouldn't be effective with Stephen.
Insecurity threatened as I dove into teaching my son, but as I walked with him on his academic journey I learned an important lesson: The ultimate curriculum planner is my Heavenly Father. He knew just what Stephen needed and when I asked, he showed me how to focus our school on my son's needs. Looking back, God led me to several discoveries that helped us on this academic journey.
Understanding a Child's Individual Learning Schedule
One of the most important preparations for this journey came from the writings of Ruth Beechick and Raymond and Dorothy Moore. Their teaching recommends allowing children to learn naturally and in their personal timetables. Understanding that boys often don't fully kick into reading until they are nine or older, greatly reduced the stress that I felt to have Stephen reading "on schedule." It also gave me the confidence to set aside the curriculum that worked for my older children.
Rhyming: The Key to Unlock Reading
The second milestone in Stephen's journey started during a quiet moment in my blue rocker-recliner. As it became apparent that Stephen wasn't going through the natural steps toward reading, I prayed for wisdom and felt a whisper in my heart, "Read him more Dr. Seuss."
Dr. Seuss? Could that be the Lord? It sounded outlandish to me, but I pulled out the Dr. Seuss books. Not long after that I attended a homeschool convention and was drawn to a particular booth in the curriculum hall. A reading specialist and homeschooling mom, Peggy Wilbur, stood for hours answering questions as she displayed her book, Reading Rescue 1-2-3 (available on Amazon.com).
"In a recent study, dyslexic children's ability to rhyme was tested," Peggy explained. "They couldn't. When they were taught to rhyme, all but a small percentage was then able to learn to read. Can your son rhyme? If he can't, that's where I'd start."
I returned home equipped with Peggy's book and advice and spent my son's kindergarten year working heavily with rhyming. It had happened naturally with the other children and I'd never even noticed that Stephen couldn't rhyme! I gave myself permission to let go of traditional expectations and we worked on the things he really needed, like coordination skills, support for his speech lessons, letter sounds, and of course, lots of rhyming books and games.
Nutrition and Exercise For the Brain
The next year before the homeschooling conference, I again prayed for wisdom. This time I was drawn to Diane Craft's booth (Child Diagnostics, Inc., http://www.dianecraft.org), where she gave me a free fifteen-minute consultation. Armed with samples of my son's work, I eagerly listened to her advice. Within a short time she'd assessed his problem, a difficulty in crossing the midline of his brain. She patiently explained that sounds are stored in one side of the brain, while the picture of the letter is stored in the other. Stephen's left side could hear and learn a sound, but because the midline wasn't working appropriately, the right side struggled to connect the symbol with the sound he'd learned.
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