Friday, August 5, 2011

How to Improve his Reading Skills

There's sooooo many things to consider. It's a bit overwhelming.

Capt. N knew all his capital letters shortly after turning 2. He received a puzzle with all 26 letters for his second birthday. He loved puzzles & he especially loved that one. He was constantly asking the names of each letter & soon he knew them all. I've been reading to him since he was a baby. As a toddler, he wasn't interested in sitting still to read books, so I would read to him while he was doing other things. My favorite was reading to him while he was taking a bath. At the time I wasn't really thinking about how all this was going to effect his later reading skills. But, now looking back, I feel like I did all the things "they" say to help your child become a good reader. It obviously didn't matter for him. Or, who knows, maybe he'd be worse off had I not done those things. He went to preschool. They weren't taught to read there, but the kids did learn the letters & their sounds. He started reading in kindergarten. His reading was definitely at grade level then. In first grade he was still at the normal level, but at the lower end of normal. By second grade he was below grade level. Coming in to 2nd grade the kids are to read 40 words per minute. He tested at 32, which was low enough to put him in a special reading program. By the end of 2nd grade, they should be reading 90 words per minute. He was only at 63ish. So his fluency had improved over the year, but not at the pace it should have been improving. Now what?

So many things are going through my mind. It basically comes down to not knowing how much I should worry about it. On one hand I wonder how much being a slow reader will really affect him in his life. Maybe not enough, to cause me so much stress. On the other hand reading is terribly important. Reading is used for almost every aspect of life. I need to help him as much as I can now. My other concern is trying to figure out if it is simply that he is slow or if there's more to it than that. If he truly is slow just because he's slow, then there's probably not much too worry about. But, what if he has some strain of dyslexia or an eye problem making it difficult for him to read? Those are issues that need special attention. I'm in the process of trying to figure it all out. It should be fairly easy to check out his eyes - I just need to make an appointment with the appropriate type of eye doctor that can do a variety of tests. But, to get the thorough testing for dyslexia or other reading problems is terribly expensive. I will do it if needed, but more as a last resort. I would like to see how he progresses next year before spending the money on the testing. When I read about the signs of dyslexia, some things really pop out at me as stuff he definitely does. But most signs do not describe his actions.

So how do I go about getting him the help he needs? We have a Sylvan Learning Center nearby. One friend said it didn't work for her daughter, another friend said it was the best money he ever spent for his boy. At this point, I don't want to do any type of tutoring. It's expensive and quite time consuming. I'm sure it's well worth both those things, but I'm just not there yet. I certainly didn't want to do tutoring last year when he was going to public school because I felt he would be spending damn near all day doing school stuff. And, I'm afraid that's a sure fire way to turn him against reading & school. He could do tutoring this year, but for various reasons I'm not signing him up just yet.

He's attending a 4 week summer reading program through the school district. I  just love him so much. He hasn't complained once about going - even though it's summer break. He's really a pretty easy going kid. He seems to be having a positive experience with the program. I was hoping this program would answer some questions for me. I was hoping they could help figure out any other problems he might have. I'm not sure if this is good or bad, but his teacher hasn't noticed anything worth looking in to. He came into the program reading 68 words per minute. That's fantastic! That's the highest his score has ever been. And it's especially impressive because he's been out of school for a month. His decoding, phonics and comprehension skills are fine. That is also what his 2nd grade teacher said. I did some home testing stuff a few months ago & I came up with the same result. So is he just slow or is it deeper than that - things the school doesn't test for?

The only advice I get from the various teachers is to have him read, read, read. Practice makes perfect. But, I don't feel like that's quite enough. I feel like there's still something missing - something else he needs to work on. I just don't know what it is. He reads silently to himself & at bedtime I read to all the kids. He reads at least as often as the average kid - it just doesn't seem to be enough for him. He doesn't overly enjoy reading, so I don't pressure him to read an extended amount. I'm trying to find the perfect balance between improving his reading, but not watch him get frustrated. Even if he only reads for a half an hour, it's a struggle on his brain for the half an hour. It's not something he can do leisurely as a relaxing activity. Reading is just difficult for him.

I hear stories about kids who struggled with reading, then around age 10 it clicked and they are great readers. Is Capt. N one of these kids? Am I making this into too big of a deal? My gut says, no. My gut says I need to figure out a way to help him. I'm just not exactly sure the best way to do it.

As well as a fun homeschooling blog, this blog will also be a way for me to keep track of his reading journey.

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