Thursday, June 25, 2015

There's Definitely Not Just One Way

I talk with parents all the time who ask, "What should I do? I don't know if what I am doing with them as a reader is right." My response: there's no right/wrong...every child's process is unique.

I have the perspective as a teacher to see so many different kinds of readers. Not one strategy fits all. It's a lot of trial and error.

That's definitely helped me as a parent, because all four of my boys are completely different readers as well.

Matt, my oldest, fell in love with reading hard and fast. He's still a great reader, oftentimes re-reading things just because. It's fun to have discussions about literature with a 15 year old! He's one who simply needs good books handed to him.

Ben, my "oldest" twin, is different. He's got the mechanics down: great fluency, accuracy, and comprehension. He enjoys talking about the subject matter of the book...but when it comes to sitting and reading...he's a clock watcher. Does that frustrate me? Yep. But I just keep trying. His personality is one where if effort is involved (baseball is an exception), he doesn't like to have to "practice." He likes things that come easy. So with him, my strategy is to be patient. Keep offering, keep discussing, weaving the books with those subjects into our talks. He's going to be one that is content driven. He'll find a passion someday, and want to devour everything there is to know about it. In the meantime, I am not putting rules on time/amount of books, etc...because I don't want reading to become something he does for me...or becomes a checklist. He's got the skills, he's just got to fall in love. And you don't fall in love with rules.

Sam, his twin, has challenges with stamina and focus. He also struggles with long term retrieval, so comprehension is tough. His brain can become like a messy closet where everything is in there, somewhere, but reaching in there to find what he needs takes time, and oftentime is just plain frustrating. He does love computers, however, and all things electronic. He is a fan of podcasts and the Kindle. With him, I need to do a lot of reading/listening to what he is so we can discuss. I need to work hard on vocabulary with him, and repetition is helpful. For him to organize and remember, I often have to help him connect the new reading he is doing with something he knows already, and have him actually verbally explain the connection. Over time, he's become a better reader. Over a LONG time...and he's much more apt to pick up informational text than anything fiction. Another avenue with him has been movies. If there is a book version, I will have him read the book first before we get to see the movie. Great motivation for him.

And Nick, my little guy, has begun his journey in reading, and been struggling in a different way. He tries to memorize the words rather than use his decoding skills. Well, as books become unpredictable entering 2nd, he's starting to get stuck. Upon further probing and talking with his teacher and our school reading specialists, I was on the money with him not having a firm grasp of the sounds of letters and how they work. Is this because he didn't get taught? NO! He has had wonderful phonics and phonemic awareness taught, but he's wired differently. He needs them taught to him differently. Same skills, different approach. So we have been working with teachers who have been trained to meet his needs -- I am learning some great new strategies to work with him, and therefore, kids who are like him in my classroom!

All this to say, your child is in their own process, and there is no one direction to get them to read. Embrace their different journeys and look for the different windows of opportunity for them to enjoy literature. Be positive, be patient, ask questions -- of them and of others -- in order to get ideas. I also wanted to let you know that I get it. It isn't always easy.

**Side note** I  specifically avoided using diagnosis with Sam and Nick in this post -- even though we have had both tested and they have them -- because they are not their label. My husband and I believe in our kids' potential, and that we should never compartmentalize or limit just because of something diagnosed.  I am not a proponent of just getting kids tested in every situation either. Readers will struggle, and often it just takes time. I saw these two struggling for a long period of the point where they were working so hard but becoming so frustrated with it just not clicking. I didn't want them to hate school.  Having this knowledge of what they struggle with absolutely helps in giving direction on what strategies work for them.

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