Few moments match the exhilaration of your child reading for the first time. When his eyes light up and he sees a word he can read, your whole world lights up with him. On the other hand, seeing a child struggle to the point of tears with letters and words and sentences can be discouraging and heart-breaking. The challenges of teaching reading are many, particularly for families of children with learning differences. How do you meet these challenges and persevere? Our SPEDHomeschool team members tell their stories.
My oldest nearly taught himself how to read. He breezed through kindergarten in half the time and devoured books well above his supposed “reading level.” I’ve often been thankful that he was my first child, giving me the confidence that I could teach a child to read and that I could homeschool successfully. I’m thankful because my next two children have had considerably more difficulty learning to read. My daughter’s dyslexia made reading an uphill battle. Slowly we’ve gained momentum, and she now loves to read. But it took her until about the third grade to hit her stride. My youngest is now fighting his way through confusing phonograms that don’t always do what he’s learned they should do, and words that seem to jumble together and dance across the page.
For each child, the resources that helped them to overcome their reading challenges have been different. What worked well for one child didn’t work as well for the next. One child needed a curriculum that focused on sounds and phonemic awareness. Another child needed a more visual curriculum. One child loved fantasy books. Another child thought she hated reading until she discovered Judy Moody and realistic fiction. Each child is different. Rather than feeling as though either myself or my child is failing, I have to look at our toolbox and decide which tools aren’t serving us best at this time and need to be replaced.
In the meantime, we’ve immersed ourselves in stories. We use a literature-rich curriculum with read-alouds and audiobooks. Piles of books are everywhere, and we’ve always got an audiobook blasting in the car. Though it may seem odd to have settled on a literature-rich curriculum with struggling readers, it’s been perfect for us. We love books and stories. Our reading challenges have never gotten in the way of enjoying a good book.
“No matter how quickly or how slowly the “learning to read” process is taking for your student, it is a process that can’t be accelerated beyond the capacity of your child.”
My kids have been all over the place when it comes to learning to read. One child finally caught on at the age of 11, and by the next year, he was reading at a college comprehension level. Another child of mine struggled through high school and still, as a young adult, finds reading a laborious task. Then there is my youngest, who taught herself to read at age 3. What I have learned through these three unique children, who all learned to read in our homeschool by the very same teacher (me), is that my ability to teach reading has had much less to do with their ability to learn to read than the pace each child just naturally needed to master the necessary steps to become a proficient reader.
It is said that one of the most stressful times for a homeschooling mom is when she is tasked with teaching her child(ren) to read. And now looking back, I recognize how much of my self-worth I allowed to be determined by the pace each of my children took in this process. I can see exactly why it was a stressful time in our homeschooling.
No matter how quickly or how slowly the “learning to read” process is taking for your student, it is a process that can’t be accelerated beyond the capacity of your child. Yes, there are some tips and tricks that will help your student to conquer some of the hurdles of reading a bit quicker, but on the other hand, you also need to make sure you are not pushing your child so much that they don’t like reading at all once the basics are mastered.
When I taught in public school, I loved reading because my students came to me already knowing how to read. When I started homeschooling, I realized how complex it is to teach reading. For my oldest, reading came naturally with very little effort. My twins came next, both with learning disabilities, and my challenge began.
Looking back I realized that my one daughter had no developmental delays; she was simply not ready to read. Being ready to read is very important to the process. So I read to her and waited. I waited and waited and decided she was ready when she was loving letters and sounds. But she still struggled. During this time we discovered that she had dyslexia and knowing why she struggled made it easier to research and develop her reading program. I gleaned all I could from others and figured out that she saw the world in pictures. When I taught to her learning style it became easier and she became more confident. She loves reading and I have to make her quit reading and go to bed. She read in her own time and in her own way.
My last daughter is still learning to read. She has multiple learning difficulties. Reading for her has to be hands-on and repetitive. She struggles, but we work through it together. We play reading games, and I read to her. Reading is a gift that I know she will open fully when she is ready.
The challenges of teaching reading vary with each child, but persevering through those challenges means that we recognize a few important things.
- Different tools work for different kids
- Our identity and self-worth do not depend on our child’s reading skills.
Each child learns at his or her own pace. And when that light bulb moment happens—whenever it happens—all the uphill battles and challenges of teaching reading will be worth it.