Friday, September 2, 2011

Reading Readiness

By Judith

I have taught all my children to read. Two have learned to read early, one before she was 4 years old, and one at 5 1/2 years. The others ALL learned to read at around 8 or 9. I would say that gives you a pretty good idea of how some children just take longer than others. In the public school system, they need the children to read all at the same time because it is easier to have them all on the same page. That creates some very frustrated children and parents because some are left behind.

You are SOOOO blessed to be HOMEschooling your children!! You don't have to teach your child things he is NOT interested in 'just because' the curriculum says it is time. He has until he is 18 and longer. Learning is something we want our children to be interested in for life. You don't want to kill it at the beginning. So, relax and interact with your son with the things he wants to learn.

My youngest is 8, almost 9. He wanted to read last year but was still not completely ready. Since he was 5 and then 6 he was not able to keep his eyes focused on the page or keep his body still long enough to settle and learn to read. Now he desperately WANTS to read and is putting ALL his energies into learning. When he was younger I  read aloud or we listened to audio stories on tape. His knowledge is incredible, as he has developed his memory and auditory skills beyond what he would have if he were reading early.

When he reads and practices the words and sounds he is learning his WHOLE body is engaged. Boys are just so different and cannot fit into the same mode of learning as girls. He reads the word ‘run’ and his whole body pretends to run. If a word makes a sound, he explodes with the sound. He will all of a sudden see the similarities between two words such as 'clip' and 'clop' and tell me all about the letters that are different. When a child isn't ready their body is tense, not engaged to learn. Their mind is tense and it would appear that they are resistant when in actuality they are just not able to concentrate or *see* the words. We can rush our child  and become concerned when they fail to succeed. When our husband comes home from work, we will be stressed and exhausted, leaving no energy to serve and cherish him.

When a child shows definite signs of being delayed in reading, try spending your 'phonics' time on reading aloud to your child. Discern whether your child is honestly delayed and not simply being lazy. You will be preparing him to love books by reading aloud to your children. Your time would be refreshing and well spent. Your child will NOT get behind by setting aside phonics for the next six months. His brain will continue to prepare for reading and you will know when the time is right because he will ask to read. You will have more productive and enjoyable time with your children.

Many boys (and I would venture to say most) are entirely different from girls when it comes to phonics and reading. When a child isn't ready to read it doesn't matter how many 'bells and whistles' a reading program has, they will not be able to learn. Boys are developing their large muscles and have trouble with eyes and fine motor coordination at around 5 or 6. They often aren't ready until 8 or even 9 for reading. 

I have used many phonics programs and have used no phonics at all. My favorite are phonics programs that use the word family approach. Some phonics programs come with songs and jingles. I found that when a child is late in learning to read and/or has learning difficulties that the extras serve as a distraction. They enjoy the songs and rhymes but don't make the connection between the sound, the animal, or the name of the letter that is being taught. It becomes twaddle to a child who has difficulty processing information. This is often true with boys even though they haven't any learning problem, just a delay (compared to girls) when that part of their brain is finished developing. I don't think any of my children made the connection between the rule and decoding the sounds the letters, blends and diphthongs made. It is so difficult for some children to decode in the first place and often once they are ready and able to begin decoding words they make up their own internal system for decoding.

Learning and studying our children's characteristics and watching for their readiness is the best way to go.
Reading aloud to them gets them interested in the world of books and lands beyond where we live. Why waste time teaching a child to read when they are NOT ready when you can sit cuddled up for three years reading aloud. It can take a child three years or more to learn to read when they aren't ready. All the while the mom struggles with disciplinary issues and measures thinking the child is stubborn and inattentive. Why not use the time you would spend on phonics to read? After all, isn't reading what phonics is all about? When a child is ready they will ask YOU to help them read because they WANT to read for themselves more books than you have time to read or your voice will hold out for.

My son still forgets what a "W" is called, what sound a "g" makes and asks while he is reading for an explanation. Teaching our children reading takes a deep understanding of our particular child (or children), each is different. One might need more drill in the sounds. Another, like my son might be internally combining sight reading with phonics as his active body reads the words. His whole body is engaged while he reads with movement. It is entirely exhausting to me [Roll Eyes]but this is how he learns.

Once a child knows how to read fluently we do not pay attention to the phonics rules or think through the sounds the letters make. I realized this so thoroughly when I was recently given something to read that had every word misspelled in a dyslexic fashion. It was incredible but I was able to read it as if nothing was changed. The whole intent of this reading passage was to point out that we read without really seeing the words. We read the ideas and thoughts. Watch yourself as you read and you'll notice that you don't really *see* each part of the word.

Hope this encourages those whose children are slow in learning to read. Five of my seven children learned to read late and are prolific readers. Don't get caught up in the process and neglect the love of learning along the way.

*NOTE: This is in no way to encourage the neglect on the part of the mother/teacher in teaching her children to read/learn. I have seen many mothers who have children who are delayed in homeschool, not because the child is actually ‘delayed’, but  because the mother is ‘delayed’ in getting around to her teaching responsibilities. I have put this article up on my blog in case some mother in cyberspace feels alone in her endeavor to teach her child to read, who isn’t seeing any  progress in her child’s reading. Well-meaning friends and relatives can really cause stress to a mother!!

1 comment:

  1. My first two children easily learned to read at age 5. The third wasn't ready until much later. I got so frustrated with him, but I am thankful that he wasn't the first, and I had gotten over the fear of what people think, so I could let back a little and give him time. He is now the most faithful reader of them all.


If you have gone a little way ahead, O friend, call back --
Twill cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony track.


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