Reading

Posted by on Oct 3, 2012 in education, Parenting | 1 comment

Your child learning to read can be a nerve racking process and one, I feel, parents have good cause to be concerned about.  I’m a firm believer in early intervention.  Our children are so lucky today, surrounded by print many of them will pick up reading just from the instruction they receive at school and the constant exposure to books and words all around them. But how do you know your child is really struggling with reading and at what age should you start to have serious concerns? It can be alarming to go into your child’s classroom and see their friend reading Harry Potter whilst your child is still trying to learn basic sight words! We all know we shouldn’t compare but…

Having taught First Grade for over a decade, the place where the reading magic tends to happen, I was intrigued to see how my two sons would develop this skill.  At last I could have 24/7 knowledge of the exact input a child was getting with regard to extras done at home. Yes, they are my guineas pigs and how wonderful for my ‘experimental purposes’ that one picked up reading with ease and the other is requiring extra support at school, as well as intensive help from me with flashcards etc. at home.  They are both fortunate to have attended International Preschool and now be at UNIS where the teaching of reading is excellent.  Interestingly, Peter is one of the youngest in his grade and whilst he didn’t read early he picked it up easily and is a prolific reader now. There was no additional input from me except a decent library of colorful books, a bedtime story every night and the example of parents that like to read. Charlie, on the other hand, is one of the oldest in his class (he is in First Grade now) and is struggling.

So here’s my point:  Some children need to be systematically taught how to read, and this does not necessarily mean they have a learning disability, but supporting them early is key to avoiding longer term issues. If you think this applies to your child, before you start the parental guilt or listen to that smug friend who tells you you should have done flash cards with them every night, remember that if you had your child would probably start to hate books and the idea of reading… I should know, I was that child. I distinctly remembering opening a gift of a book, around the age of 8, and throwing it straight in the garbage. Our ‘Peter and Jane’ Ladybird reading books were dry but I quite liked them – I just didn’t seem to be able to pick up the skills like other children. I eventually learned to read perfectly but it was a chore until I went to boarding school. I had lost all interest in books. With extremely limited TV, every 11 year old girl was discussing ‘Flowers in the Attic’ by Virginia Andrews. Finally curiosity got the better of me and at last I understood how amazing a book can be…especially a trashy one!

To me the crucial time for reading intervention is First Grade.  If your child is struggling midway through First Grade talk to their teacher and start to think about getting extra help. And yes, it’s like teaching driving, if you can afford it, get  professional help! Your child probably just needs a bit of a boost and as a parent it’s very hard and frustrating to teach them…I avoid teaching my own children.

Now here’s what you can do. It’s so simple and yet so many parents don’t do it enough: READ TO YOUR CHILD, as much as you can.  By doing this you ensure that they love books and won’t end up putting them in the bin like I did!  And once your child is reading, even when they’re fluent, KEEP READING TO THEM!! Often when I tutor older children who are struggling with comprehension and fluency I find their parents are not spending enough time reading to them. They only tend to read with them when it’s a comprehension assignment – ugh! Peter  and Charlie treasure the time we spend reading together and we love discussing the story. Often they will sneak on the light again to read more, as they can’t wait to find out what happens.

So happy reading!  Good luck, and I’ll keep you posted on how Charlie goes.

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