Our Family

Our Family

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Struggling With A Struggling Reader

Sometimes we as homeschoolers have a hard time talking about when our kids are having a hard time with something.  Why? Because you will  get some well meaning friends offering advice such as: "don't worry he'll grow out of it", or "he'll be able to read when he's ready" , or, "surround him with good books and read aloud to him and he will get it."  I know this because I too have offered well meaning advice in the past.  Or the other extreme which are well meaning people that think it is your lack of teaching skills that cause the problem.  "You better put him in a real school so they can teach him to read." Yeah, because being ridiculed everyday for having a difficulty is going to help that out.

The truth is, some kids are going to struggle when learning to read.  Why?  The reason is different for everyone.  Some children are not developmentally ready, some may have vision or eye tracking problems and some may have hearing problems.  Some children may have varying degrees of dyslexia and just see and process things differently.

I am struggling with a struggling reader.  It is hard!  It is so hard to watch him struggle to read!  It is hard watching him pretend to read chapter books like his best friend/big brother does because he cannot read the words.  It is hard watching him try to write his alphabet and even when you think he's got it, the p turns into a b again and the Z is backwards.  Sound a word out?  Not when your brain reads cat as tac and you have a terrible time blending sounds together to make a word.

One of my biggest goals is not to frustrate him so he will hate to read.  We are a family of readers and love books in our house!  I read a lot to my children starting before they are born and keep them surrounded by great books.

There is help for the struggling reader.  It is different for everyone, but this is what is working right now for my almost 8 year old son.

  • Read aloud-a lot! All of our Science, Bible, History is done together and is read aloud.  Instead of doing written questions/quizzes, we do questions and answers as a group and also do a lot of narration.
  • Audio books allow Alex to enjoy stories above his reading level even when I am not reading aloud.  I bought an inexpensive (around $12) mp3 player from www.walmart.com and we download books from www.bookshouldbefree.com for him to listen to.
  • The Reading Kingdom.-  This online reading program has been working wonders for Alex!  It makes words make sense to him and has made a huge difference in his reading!  You can find my complete review on it here.
  • All About Spelling- This easy to use program teaches spelling rules and uses letter tiles for the children to build words with their hands.  Building the words makes them more concrete and makes it make more sense. (the link in this post is my affiliate link.) 
I am adding an update to this post because it still is a widely searched topic that homeschool parents are looking for solutions on.  I posted this in 2011.  The then struggling reader is now 13 years old and reads all of the time!  I have two more boys who struggled in their reading and are doing much better, a little girl that is an amazing reader, and another little girl who is just starting to read.  My absolute favorite reading program that I have seen the most success with has been All About Reading.  It is a multi sensory program that suits a wide range of learners and children can move at their own pace.  It works for struggling readers and for other readers too.  I have used all 4 levels of this program.  My children love the stories and it has given them the skills and confidence that they need to improve their reading.

If yo have a struggling reader, give it time.  Not everyone reads at the same pace or the same age.  My boys did not read well until they passed the age of 10.  
It is possible to help a struggling reader!  It is also ok to admit that you are struggling with a struggling reader!  If any of my readers are struggling with a struggling reader, I'd love it if you would leave a comment telling us what works or doesn't work for your struggling reader!

Disclaimer: Links to All About Reading and Spelling are my affiliate links.  I only form affiliate relationships with companies whose products I actually use and can recommend!


Rebecca said...

SO true...I have one who has always struggled..one who is learning and will probably pass the sibling..and another that can stay lost in books. One thing I've started doing to help with writing...is having the child tell me what they want to say.../ write, I write it then they copy it. It's still a struggle...but, I'm learning to accept this struggle as a way to grow me...my patience and see the beauty of the others gifts. Thank you for this post...I REALLY needed it today!

Lisa said...

Writing what he says and having him copying it is a great idea Rebecca! Thanks for sharing! I'm glad I got this posted today!

Jennifer said...

All three of my children learn differently and at different rates. You shared some great resources here.

Cristi said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and some great resources. My middle child was a late reader. I don't know if it was All About Spelling that helped him so much or if he just needed more time.

Heather Lynn said...

Thank you very much for those ideas and links. :)

Mary said...

There is a GREAT book that you could read, it is called "The Book Whisperer." It is fabulous and may give you a different perspective on your "struggling" reader. It is totally worth the read!

Kympossible said...

one of mine struggled with reading too, and I avoided telling people for fear that they'd criticize me. Patience and not pushing worked for him. He had learned the basic phonetic sounds, but couldn't string sounds together into words (this was in Grade 1). A good friend suggested that he just needed a bit more time to develop what I think she called linear thinking, so I put away the phonics workbooks and just let him take whatever books out of the library that he wanted. Read to him if he wanted me to. And within a year the "light came on" and he started picking out beginner chapter books and reading them on his own. And when it was time to start Grade 2, he was ready. He's now almost 17yo and likes to read!

Our Village is a Little Different said...

This is excellent advice, and a post that I'm sure will encourage a lot of other families.

Debra said...

Lisa! Thanks for commenting on my struggling reader post! I read this of yours... I think it is still up on my iPod... but I couldn't comment from there. LOL.

I'm linking you in my comments. I want my readers to come find your post too. :) Because, ummm, we are finding the same stuff -- and had I been less hysterical and more rational last night, I would have posted something nearly identical to your "what is working now" list... lots of read-alouds, lots of audio books, Reading Kingdom and All About Spelling. LOL

Happy Helpmeet said...

I have been struggling with my struggling reader for three years I pulled her when they were going to hold her back in first grade because she couldn't read when I got her she didn't know her letters she didn't know her sounds she couldn't read at all. This is at the end of first grade so we have slowly been learning all of our letter sounds and all of our site words and being able to pick out words and chunks and sound out words and in the beginning she had great for phonemic awareness however now she gets frustrated and starts crying and she can't concentrate and she grabs her head and then of course I'm losing my patience because it's the word what and I try to have her sound it out and she can't. she can't see the blends and I'm at my wits end or the sounds or but yet she know the work thunder !! I just don't know what to do now it seems that every curriculum I buy every program I try nothing helps we do copy work we answer Verbly . She uses a dictionary to help her spell when she is writing and she loves looking things up in encyclopedias but she still can't seem to figure out how to sound out new words or how to memorize words!! she doesn't understand any of the spelling rules or phonics rules it seems as if she's not mentally at the age 9 she's very very forgetful I just don't Think she is mentally there she has been diagnosed with ADHD and I do think that she has other issues however we are not aggressive in treatment with her we treat her basically by altering her diet by taking dairy out and buy keeping additives and preservatives in food coloring down and then I also gave her calm child. She is a normal kid by talk to her and looking at her people the me she is so smart and she is but she just can't get her reading and spelling under control I just don't know what else to do I feel like I'm failing her.

The Happy Homeschool Mom said...

Every child learns differently and it can be very hard to find what works. I know how frustrating it can be. Since I wrote this post I, the child I wrote it about loves to read and reads very well (not perfect) and I have two others that are struggling (8 and 10.)

Is your daughter dyslexic? My oldest is and he had a really hard time understanding phonics for a long time.

How does she learn best? Is she a visual learner (learns best by seeing), auditory (learns best by hearing), or Kinesthetic (by doing)? I don't know what type of programs you have tried but we have achieved the most success using All About Reading. It is multisensory (meaning it uses all of the senses) teaches all the sounds and the spelling rules and also "rule breaker" words and why they are rule breakers. The books are good quality and have great little stories and illustrations.

We love All About Reading, but there is another program called Logic of English that is very good and teaches all the sounds and the rules. It is more time intensive then All About Reading but it is a really good program.

If she learns really well by hearing, Phonetic Zoo from IEW is a really good spelling program that teaches the rules based on a jingle. They listen to an audio cd and complete the program independently.

You are not failing your child (although I totally understand that feeling!) I seriously thought my now 12 year old son would never read and felt like I failed him every day. This is a quote from Andrew Pudewa from. He had an extremely dyslexic son and has several talks and writings about struggling readers

"Late reading is not the great disaster that it might seem. Although the education
establishment has made reading a god (because without reading one can’t take
standardized tests), we need not follow that disordered thinking. There’s no reading test
at the gates of heaven, and many successful people—even those who’ve gone on to get
doctoral degrees—didn’t read until in their teens. As parents we desperately want to help
our children overcome obstacles to learning to read and write, and I hope I’ve offered a
few thoughts on the different places to look for that help. But above all, we must keep
things in perspective: God made our children the way they are, blessings are often hidden
inside challenges, and with His guidance we can help them find help for the symptoms of
dyslexia without falling into extreme frustration or despair."

happy mom of 3 said...

I too have a struggling reader. I was searching for help and came across the Easyread program. The science, and reviews are amazing! I've been using a tutor twice a week, but we still need more. Check out this program. There were case studies posted on the site similar to yours.

Juanita Murphy said...

Well said! Thank you for this encouragement. My spirits have been lifted.

Juanita Murphy said...

Well said! Thank you for this encouragement. My spirits have been lifted.