How we took the struggle out of reading?
When beginning to consider homeschooling, one of the tasks I saw as close to impossible was teaching my child how to read. I remember saying that if my son would just be able to begin reading some words by the end of Kindergarten, I would have been so grateful.
Come to find out at the end of our Kindergarten year he was reading well more than just a few words, he was reading beginner reading level books and I felt on top of the world! When First grade came around, he finished learning all the special sounds and read 10 books during the school year and forget it, I felt like supermom with a super kid! 🤸♀️However, the following year (2nd grade) was a whole different story.
My son slowly lost any desire to read, it became his least favorite “task” to do.
Task?? Well, that was my 1st fail. Reading wasn’t supposed to be just a school task, I was supposed to teach him a life skill to love, to embrace and enjoy. He was supposed to see books as this incredible way of discovery, a way to go on an adventure while sitting on his bed or couch and getting lost into the story he was reading about.
Oh boy, how what I had envisioned for him was far from our reality. I quickly came down from my self-made reading “cloud 9” and faced the reality we weren’t even close to any of that.
So what had happened? Where did things go wrong? What did I miss?
- For starters, I pushed my son too fast and too soon. As soon as he started reading I never gave him the chance to find his confidence before I pushed for more and more. I gave him more content, more challenging words, more comprehension questions to answer, and so on.
- Next, I picked his reading material without taking into consideration who he was, his likes, his interests or potential interest. I just pick 2nd-grade readers without any attention to content other than them being Christian based and ignored the fact that he was bored out of his mind reading those books.😴
- Once in 2nd grade, I also stopped any phonics review which turned out to be a big, big mistake. In 2nd grade, we took a leap of faith and completely moved away from the boxed curriculum we used during our first two years.
Although this turned out to be a wonderful change for us, it did slow down my son’s reading progress because we stopped all phonics review. My child had mastered all phonics rules in 2 years (that’s a lot), and I felt that daily review was going to be an overkill and unnecessary. I believed reading would have been a great way to keep it all fresh but as it turns out it wasn’t, I stopped too fast too soon.
Think about it like this, when a child first starts walking we are usually very careful by holding their hand since they are still wobbly, not very stable on their feet and could fall and get hurt. We are always around making sure while they practice their new skill they don’t fall and crack their head open, right?😱
Now compare that to learning how to read. As soon as my soon took in a big load of info I walked away and thought alright you are good now, here are some books lets read. No more “hand-holding” or hovering over to make sure he was safe, so yup, he ended up being like that baby who falls and cracks his head open, but in his case, his reading confidence crumbled and left him feeling defeated, uninterested and lost.😢
So how did we turn this around? How did my child become an avid reader?
I Bought books my son wanted to read.
While spending our summer by the beach, during one of our food shopping trips, we came across a bin of 3 for $10 books for sale. I usually don’t get excited when I see books for sale because, at this point, I was feeling like reading was our school crutch 😞. However, the teacher and sales junkie that’s in me🤑, couldn’t help but gravitate towards that bin and look thru the books just to see what we were missing out on😏.
Oddly enough my son sees an informational animal book and starts looking thru it, to then ask me if he could have it. HA! “Of Course,” I said, but I never thought he would actually read it! I thought he would just look thru the pictures and call it a day.
To my surprise every night in bed after the prayers he would have his little light on looking at this book. In the morning he would always wake up to tell my husband and me all the amazing things he learned about these animals. All of a sudden there was a sparkle in his eyes and it finally hit me:
“If I buy him books he’s interested in, this reading crutch might not end up being our crutch after all”!
Although I had already invested in a whole set of 3rd-grade readers before summer began, now that summer was coming to an end, I took a step back and asked him if those readers would be of any interest once the next school year started, and he respectfully declined.
He picked out 3 of them and then we went book shopping, (internet shopping to be exact). We looked and talked about books and he picked a nice selection of books he wanted, I also added others I knew he would enjoy. I was now finally paying attention to what he liked and not worrying about anything else. This was the first step in the right direction.
2. Bringing back Phonics Review.
Now that we had books that my son was excited to read, we needed to work on reading fluency. Sure a beginner 3rd grader isn’t expected to be a fluent reader, but I found his reading was too slow and too choppy.
His comprehension has always been good but we were now reading books with more content on each page. Trying to retain all the info, while decoding all the new sounds and the ones he had forgotten was too much to bare. So, as usual, I felt like we made one step forward and two steps back.😫
After going thru a couple of days feeling defeated and desperate (God has interesting ways on how to keep me humble🙇♀️), I decided to have my 3rd grader sit down with his 1st-grade brother while he listens to his phonics cd to dust off all those special sounds he hadn’t practiced in a while. Believe it or not:
After only a couple of weeks of doing this, I could already hear a difference in his reading.
3. Scaled back on my drilling style comprehension questioning.
“Hi I’m Juno,🙋♀️ and in my previous life I must have been an Army ‘Drill Sargeant'”! 🗣🙉 “Hi Juno”! (This is how I imagine I would introduce my self at a “Homeschooling Parent Anonimous Meeting”).🤣
Yes, because I wanted to make sure my child was understanding what he was reading, I’ve always been big on asking many comprehension questions. I would buy the teachers manuals with the questions to ask and follow them religiously. I also started these Read & Think skill sheets where my child has to read within a set time and answer the given questions. Although I still find both things very important, I’ve scaled back on the amount and intensity I go about both for the time being.
I found that while I was trying to help my child find a love for reading, drilling him with comprehension questions wasn’t helping my cause.
- How could he love something that I was turning into almost a stress test?
- How could he love something I make him read over and over again until he figures out the answer? Yeah, I don’t think so!
So the Good Lord one day turned on my light bulb💡 helping me realize I needed to scale back my drill style comprehension questions. Part of my reading makeover was telling my son to don’t stress about answering my questions because for now, instead of having a quiz after he’s done we were going to discuss together what he read.
From the first day we started doing this, it has been a 360 turn around for my child. The weight of the world had been lifted from his shoulders. He actually started to talk more about what he reads and I would bring up other things to help him broaden his views. What an enlightening experience for both of us, how true it is that sometimes less IS more!👏
4. Beginning Root Words Introduction.
Introducing Root Words, Prefixes and Suffixes has been the absolute Icing on the cake for us! I feel it was the last piece of the puzzle my son needed to be able to spread his wings and take off on his reading journey. Oh, thank you, God, for the Beginner Root Word book you brought into our lives!🙌🙏
Learning how words are made by combining root words, adding prefixes and suffixes was like opening a treasure box and just staring in complete amazement! Everything is finally starting to make sense, decoding is finally becoming easier by the day and my 8-year-old son now can read chapter books for ages 8-12 without even blinking.
We have finally gone from struggling to striving!
At this point, our son had read to date, 11 books in 2 months and 2 of those being chapter books, a huge success for him. I believe introducing Root Words was a very important part of my son’s journey on becoming a fluent reader and helping him grow more each day.
If you have a struggling reader please don’t feel discouraged, it takes time to master such a complex skill. Every child is different and might blossom at a different age than others.
Just be there and provide them with all the tools they need and in due time, children will spread their beautiful God given wings.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up”.
Enjoy your family’s reading journey,