Monday, November 19, 2012

Eight Strategies for Struggling Readers

John got off to a rough start in kindergarten.

This didn't come as a complete surprise. He's young, he's John, and kindergarten is much harder today than forty years ago.

I taught Tim and Kolbe to read. I bought Teach Your Child To Read and away we went. Thirty lessons into the book, both boys were reading. No sweat.

I didn't try this with John. At three both John's mother and his pre-school teacher wondered if he were color blind. Everything -- from stop signs to bananas -- was "greent". Color-blindness runs in my family, so I wasn't unduly alarmed.

But then John learned his colors. And color-blind people, see, they don't learn their colors with time or effort or anything. Ever. So something else was behind this.

A number of other factors (some being my time and John's temperament) led me to back off and not push.

He started kindergarten, and I started getting concerned phone calls.

To my credit and as clear evidence that I have Come a Long Way, Baby! in the areas of faith, hope, and love, I did not panic. I cried after one phone call. I prayed. Mostly I spent a lot of time thinking through all my Montessori training and perusing Amazon for items that might be helpful.

Ten weeks and a whole lot of money later, here's what we're doing:

1. Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons

Excellent book. Simple and clear instructions.

2. Mommy, Teach Me to Read

This book arrived in my home on a Friday, and just three days later the author, Barbara Curtis, died unexpectedly. Her life's work lives on in books that celebrate children and help families enjoy learning together.

3. Lacing Cards

 As you can see, Ainsley's mastered this skill.

4. Stringing Beads

Great for fine motor skills and patterning.

5. Japanese Water Painting

A huge hit for kids of all ages. Adults love it, too. Buy one and put it in a public area like a kitchen island or the break room in the office. Everyone will enjoy it. And no clean up required!

6. The Bob Books

Ainsley calls these "the blah blah books." Easy, easy first readers designed to build confidence through success. Kolbe HATED these; John loves them.

7. Matching Games

A great memory building game. Lewis Carroll fans will recognize the Cheshire Cat. John calls it The Pressure Cat which cracks me up to no end. 

8. Perfection

Fine motor skills and the added fun of the whole board exploding when time runs out.

School has been difficult for John. Is this a problem or an opportunity?

In the long run, this may indeed prove to be a problem. For right now, though, it has given me an opportunity to spend lots more time with John and Ainsley than I would have otherwise. That admission -- that John had to encounter academic problems for me to sit down and string beads with him -- could be a topic for another post (or maybe a book!). Life is fast-paced. Rather than feeling guilty, I'm choosing to be inspired.

Barbara Curtis wrote this:

Look closely at children's activities and you will see a sense of purposefulness, working toward understanding and mastering their small worlds . . .

God gives the child this drive to explore and learn. You see it clearly in the toddler years: learning is what we are made for. It is our drive to learn that causes us to seek to know more about God and the world he created for us. Watch any preschooler learning to peel carrots, write his name, or count his pennies -- you will see a child completely engrossed, a child who isn't learning because he has to, but because he wants to, a child who loves to learn.

Today I'm grateful for a new opportunity to enter into John's small world.

P.S. All these items are available on Amazon. I'm now their favorite customer.


Better Than Eden said...

That right there looks like a complete homeschool Kindergarten curriculum! Glad things are looking up for him and I'm going to check out that Japanese water painting...never seen anything like that before!

Kris said...

I had to comment. Been there, done that! Just to give you hope.....! My oldest son (who is now 16) had some of the same issues I'm guessing you are having with John. Definitely the fine motor skills issue, big time. Some sensory issues. All kinds of things. We had conversations with his pre-school teacher involving holding him back, etc. He is an August birthday, so VERY young. We ended up doing a very small, half-day kindergarten, with the idea that he would "repeat" in full-day the following year at our local Catholic school where our daughter was enrolled. In the end, with some focus from me, some occupational therapy, and just growing and maturing for another year, he ended up being totally ready for 1st grade. We still did some work in the early elementary years, and then we decided (totally unrelated) to homeschool when he was in 5th grade, so he ended up being ahead in math, and well on grade level or above in reading, etc. He is now attending out local Catholic high school, is 2 grades ahead in math, and as a junior is taking 5 AP classes and doing really well. John will get it. Kids progress at different paces. You're doing all the right things, and I agree with the previous comment - looks like a lovely homeschool curriculum!! I used Ordinary Parents Guide to Reading with mine, which is very similiar to the book you are using. Patience and time, and he will be great. One other thing I would recommend for fine motor is lots of cutting with scissors. Anything - random paper, etc. Also, things to build his upper body strength will help as well (per our occupational therapist). The two favorite things were wrestling on the floor with Daddy (pushing on a heavier body!) and pushing younger siblings across the floor in a box, or outside in a push toy.

Anonymous said...

Kelly, I think you're absolutely right to see the opportunities that lurk beneath what to many people is a problem. My experiences with two children who have both had major challenges is that sometimes the adults in their lives (teachers, other people outside the family) are a bit freaked out by a child who doesn't seem to fit the mould of the hundreds of other children that person has worked with. Instead of treating each and every child as an individual - in which case problems are always opportunities - some professionals are disarmed by the few who don't fit, and for them this is a problem because they can't cope! I'm not saying that John's teacher is being like this, but that the challenge for me as a mother is to resist falling into a similar pattern of thinking, and to keep asserting the inborn potential of my child. (Much easier said than done at times. Issues of shame creep into things as well, speaking only for myself.)

John is very lucky he has such an insightful and dedicated mother. I'm sure he will find his way, and that you will both have many moments of rejoicing and happy learning and exploring together. It's good to read that Kris' son has come through similar things as well.

I'm remembering you in my prayers. x

Kelly said...

Eden - I have the many homeschooling blogs I've read for years to thank for most of these ideas. You'll love the Japanese water painting.

Kris - Thank you, thank you! My neighbor has a daughter who ended up valedictorian of her class, but had a tough start with reading. I love to hear the encouraging stories. I like your OT ideas as well. I'm sure John would be thrilled if I suggested he wrestle.

Christine - Thanks for your kind, encouraging words. Thankfully, John adores his teacher and loves school. If I can keep his older siblings from convincing him he's nuts, I think he'll be fine in the long run.

To some degree, all of us tie our identity/self-worth into our kids' performance (be that academic, behavioral, spiritual, etc). We all want them to be individuals so long as their individuality reflects well on us most of the time. And when it doesn't, we gulp and cringe, wring our hands and pray, adjust course and drink wine!

I am convinced that God gave me both the number of children I have and the wide range of personalities so that I could clearly see that I am not in complete control and that they are not little robots to be programmed.

It's a process I find both humbling and exciting.