Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Reading Journey

This is the story of how #3 son learned to read. He is pictured above working on his $65 car (who can resist a great deal?) and his vintage van is in the background (he will love that I included his van!) As I mentioned in my earlier post on reading  (here), #3 was a late reader ~ Well, I don't think he was late - he was right on time for his own development, but the rest of society probably considered him as late.  

I begin with a disclaimer: If I had not lived this myself, I would probably be somewhat skeptical, if not totally  incredulous. But I did live it, and it happened just as I describe it below. Also note eye sight and hearing had been checked and all was normal.

At 8 1/2 years old #3 son still had not mastered reading Hop on Pop, by Dr. Suess. The Sunday school teacher was concerned, my parents were concerned, friends were concerned ~ but I had providentially read Better Late Than Early by Dr. Raymond Moore, and I was peacefully not concerned. I have also always been grateful that my husband trusted me and also believed in Dr. Moore.  When I say #3 son could not even read one syllable, short vowel words, on a consistent basis, I am not exaggerating, but let's back up a bit and describe the process from the beginning.

From about age 5 I had begun formal work in the phonics book and some incidental workbooks. I never pushed and kept all sessions short - like 5 or 10 minutes short. This was all he could tolerate before frustration set in. Frustration and reading are not compatible, so I was keenly aware of his limits. In one incident in particular I remember riding down the road on an errand with him and thought this would be a good time to do a little phonics game. Looking around I said let's do the "D" sound. Door starts with "D". And went "Da - da - da - door!" and so on with 3 or 4 words. Then I said can you think of a "D" sound? He went, "Da - da - da - tree!" Game over for that day.

I was consistent and persistent for several years. We never progressed. He just didn't get it. During this time there were two things that I kept doing. First we never quit the little lessons. By keeping them to 5-10 minutes (actually I think some were about 2-3 minutes in length) he never learned to hate them and I never let on that they weren't going well. It was just what we did as part of our day. Phonics lessons were done about 3 times a week. The second thing I did was I read to him - lots and lots.

We couldn't stand still in all the other subjects and wait until he could read the information for himself, so I read to him from his books. I read the instructions. I read the subject matter. If he had to write answers he would say them to me and I would write them for him to then copy onto his papers. He could do his math if I read the directions to him. He could do penmanship because he was just copying. The only subject that he couldn't really do was spelling - and other than a few basic words like "God" and "the", we just let that go until he could read. (Note: today he is the best speller of all my children.)

He loved learning and was soooooo smart. He could do analytical thinking usually only attributed to children  5 or 6 years older than him. He devoured books on his favorite subjects. He selected piles and piles of books from the library on volcanoes, the Titanic, and automotive repair (yes, automotive repair manuals at age 6 and 7!) As I had time during the day I would read them to him for 15 to 30 minutes at a time - usually 2 or 3 times during each day. (Note: on the repair manuals I would just have him pick out selected parts he wanted me to read for him, I didn't read the whole book.) His speaking vocabulary was amazing (but he still couldn't read Hop on Pop!) Since his younger sister (aged 5) was also still a non-reader I usually combined their general classes and this worked well to keep them together for language arts, science, and history. Only math and phonics was individualized.

There are many details that cover these years, but it would be impossible to write on every scenario we faced. If you have a question feel free to ask and I will do my best to answer it. But let's move on to age 8 1/2.

One morning we were sitting at breakfast and I suddenly noticed that #3 son was reading the cereal box! I was thrilled and brought him Hop on Pop. He zipped right through it. I grabbed up 2 or 3 other beginner readers and he read them all. At that point he was tired of reading so we quit for that day. The next day I gave him a couple 2nd and 3rd grade readers and he whizzed through those. We repeated this on days 3 and 4, each time increasing the difficulty level. On day 5 he dug out an issue of "National Geographic Magazine" that we had lying around. It contained an article on the Titanic. He brought it to me and asked me to read it to him as he usually did. This time I said that he should read it for himself - and he did! Within a month he was reading any book he chose to pick up - including car repair manuals.

Just as Dr. Moore had said - when his brain was ready it suddenly unlocked all the keys to decoding written language. It had nothing to do with intelligence and everything to do with readiness. Because we had always read out loud to him, he had a great vocabulary. Now it was just a matter of linking up the spoken word to the written word, and with the keys all suddenly crystal clear, it happened at warp speed. My parents were delighted. Then they asked if his younger sister would learn to read like this as well! No - he was unique. The Princess learned to read bit by bit at a "normal" pace.

So there is the tale of the boy that learned to read in one week. I am so thankful for Dr. Moore!

1 comment:

  1. This is a beautiful story. So very encouraging. I am going to look for the book you suggested. Thank You. (And, thank you for visiting with me) - Carmen