I got an email the other day from a lady who had found my blog and read several of my old posts on struggling readers. I wrote this one back in 2011, this one in 2012, and this one in 2013. In her email, she wanted to know how my struggling reader was doing now. She has a son who is struggling and she has been doing many of the things I talked about in those blog posts but wanted to know if my son was able to be successful without being tested or paying for expensive tutors. I thought I would turn my response into blog post because I know this is a topic that many people are interested in. If only I had saved that email it would be a little easier for me to remember what I said, but I will do my best anyway :)
My son who I was writing about in those blog posts is now 10 1/2 years old. He is reading. He enjoys reading chapter books and they do not frustrate or intimidate him any more. The largest amount of progress I saw with him was this past school year right before he turned ten. We still use many of the methods I wrote about in those earlier blog posts. I read aloud all of our history and science every day. Just in the middle of this year he was able to start reading through his Bible assignments and completing them on his own. He still listens to audio books regularly, mostly at night before bed and we also listen in the car. We are still using All About Spelling for spelling. We are in the middle of Level 4. Every day after completing his AAS lesson, Alex reads aloud to me from books that I have chosen for him off of Sonlight's reading list. While I put no emphasis at all on the importance of standardized testing and do not believe they are any kind of accurate measure of knowledge, my son went from scoring in the 37th percentile last year for reading comprehension to the 81st percentile this year.
While all of those things are wonderful, that does not mean that all of his struggles have or will disappeared. He will never be a fantastic speller. There are days when I would like to beat my head against the table because while he knows the rule backward and forward and has spelled 3/4 of the words on the list correctly using the rule he will spell the rest of them incorrectly. When doing Math, he sometimes will turn 12 into 21 or vice versa. We did SWI A from IEW this year, and while he understood the concepts perfectly and came up with some fantastic ideas for his papers, he had a really hard time writing them. It seemed to me like he had to concentrate so hard on the words he was writing that he would forget all of the things he wanted to say. So, what we did was he dictated what he wanted to say to me and I wrote everything down for him. He got all the necessary components into his work and got to check everything off of his list. He came up with some pretty great papers too!
It is possible to help your struggling reader improve without professional testing or tutoring. There may be some testing you might want to do like vision or eye tracking problem to make sure those are not causing the reading problems. I think sometimes time is the most important thing. For some reason we have decided in our society that children need to be reading by the age of 5 or 6 and if you are not there is something wrong. I have read many articles that suggest that boys are not developmentally ready to read until after the age of 9 or 10 and that by not pushing them to read at a young age makes it much easier to learn when they are a little older. My oldest son was an early reader, but my next 3 have not been. After learning all that I have learned with Alex over the years, I am not worried about the other two (who are 7 and 8 right now) at all. We will keep reading aloud, working on our spelling, and choosing books that they find interesting to read. I expect by the time they hit age 10 they will be reading like their big brother.
*link to AAS is my affiliate link. I only form affiliate relationships with companies whose products I actually use and can recommend.