Fall 2020/ Sandra Peoples
One fall Friday night during my senior year of high school, I cheered for my friend Wes who was playing tight end. “Go 98!” I yelled. My friend in the bleachers next to me said, “Who is 98? There’s no 98 on the field.” “Sure there is,” I replied. “Wes.” “No, he’s 89.” I looked again. He was 89. But I had seen 98.
That mistake led to me getting tested for a learning disability. Sure enough, just months before turning eighteen and graduating, we found out I was dyslexic and had short term memory issues. So many of my struggles up to that point made sense: struggles with spelling, memorization, and foreign languages. It was especially helpful when the diagnostician told us I had actually compensated for my dyslexia in very creative ways. Because I loved reading in spite of the challenges, I became a speed reader—not seeing the letters that made up the individual words, but instead reading so quickly that my brain picked which word made the most sense in the sentence and kept going.
Fast forward to ten years ago when Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons arrived from Amazon, and I sat down with my son David to get started. Those easy lessons weren’t so easy for him. We tried The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading. Still not easy. All about Reading? Not quite. Ah, I thought. I know what’s happening here. My beginning reader had dyslexia. His struggles were not hidden from me (as mine were from my elementary teachers decades ago.)
So we slowed down, used all this great curriculum along with Right Brain Phonics from Dianne Kraft, and went at his speed. Now he’s fourteen, and although he still gets tongue-tied when reading out loud, he loves to read, and his reading comprehension is on par with his peers.
If you have a struggling reader, be encouraged! There are ways you can make reading easier for your child (and for you!). Here are four suggestions:
- Try a different curriculum. There are even more great options available now than when we started out. If one curriculum doesn’t work for you, try another. Borrow reading books from friends or check them out from your library. Be patient until it clicks!
- Listen to audiobooks. As David got into the elementary years, his reading skills didn’t match the level of books he was able to read. Baby books aren’t any fun when your friends are starting The Mysterious Benedict Society or The Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness. With audiobooks, he was able to enjoy books at his interest level even when his skills weren’t quite there yet.
- Use spelling lessons to support reading skills. For David, things really started clicking as we learned spelling rules and kept practicing writing. And even now, as he moves into high school classes, all the skills he learned work together to make his dyslexia more manageable.
- Make a love of reading the ultimate goal. Do you want your child to have reading skills? Of course! But you don’t want him or her to resent the task of reading because it’s so hard. There should be times when you focus on enjoying stories together without the pressure to get every word right. Help him or her get to know characters, travel to different settings, and appreciate a good plot along with gaining skills in phonics and comprehension.
I’m so thankful we were able to see signs of dyslexia in my son at a much younger age than I discovered it about myself. The steps we took when he was younger have set him up for more success as a teen. And although he and I both still struggle, we both love reading and keep working to improve our skills. (Having spell check in our pockets sure helps!) Know that your struggling reader can grow up to be an author and an editor like I am, or anything s/he chooses!
Sandra Peoples is a special-needs mom and sibling. She and her family live outside of Houston, TX, where she serves her church as the director of special-needs ministry. She’s the author of Unexpected Blessings: The Joys and Possibilities of Life in a Special-Needs Family and the host of the podcast, Self Care and Soul Care for the Caregiver. You can connect with her at sandrapeoples.com
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