Reading Readiness

Jason at 9

Jason at 9

In the comments on my last post, Christine dropped a not-so-subtle hint that she would love to read more right-brained learning posts. And she is right, I have not written too much about that or about our homeschooling lately. Maybe because it is summer? Not sure. But I do have a couple of posts that I wrote on the Homeschooling Creatively email list that I have been meaning to use as a jumping off point for a blog post. I figure that this is as good a time as any.

One of the things that we talk about a lot with respect to right-brained learners is that they have a very “different” but very normal-for-them time frame for learning most things. For many right-brained kids this means that they are not ready to read until the 8 to 10 year old time frame. Around that time, there is a natural shift from developing their 3D visual processing to 2D sequential processing. Trying to get kids to read before that shift, before they are ready, can lead to making reading much more difficult than it has to be. But another trait of our right-brained kids is that they sometimes need a bit of a gentle push to try something outside their comfort zone. So knowing when they are ready can be a tricky thing.

How will I know that my child is ready?

This is actually a very good question and one that I remember worrying about back before Jason learned to read. How will I know? What if he is ready but I don’t notice? What if I am holding him back? These types of questions were especially worrisome because Jason was my first born (I worried much less about this with Kyle).

Here is the thing. There is no one answer for this…I can’t tell you, “when he is doing xyz, he is ready.” But I can share with you how it has worked for my kids. What I found was that I did get a sense of when my kids were ready and I also was able to tell when my gentle pushing was working and when it was not. A lot of itcame down to both trusting my gut as well as trusting my kids reactions.

One thing that really helped me in the time before Jason started reading was remembering a saying of a homeschool friend…”there are no educational emergencies.” Which means that I can relax and trust that my kids will learn what they need to know when they need it. It is not all up to me. It is a natural process that I can help support.

Jason’s Journey

I actually was pretty sure that Jason would be reading “on time”. He loved books and being read to. His comprehension was very high (listening to chapter books around 3 years old, Harry Potter at 5 years old). He loved playing word games and rhyming. He knew his letters around 2-3 years old. But as he got closer to “typical reading age” he did not really show much interest in learning to read.

I would offer things, try to play games related to reading and phonics but he absolutely wanted nothing to do with it. So we kept reading and I kept looking for things that would work. And during this time he kept doing his things, playing video games, looking through visual type of books (but not reading) etc. We also had a lot of talks about learning to read…one of the things that he was worried about was that if he tried to learn to read, he would find out that he could not which would mean he was dumb. He also was worried that once he started reading, I would stop reading to him.

Then sometime around when he was 7.5 years old I realized that he actually knew a lot of sight words. And I realized that he was not seeing that there were patterns and rules related to words (many kids do put this together for themselves). It became clear to me that he had all this information swirling around in his head and that he needed some help to pull it all together.

So I got Phonics Pathways from the library. He did not want to do lessons, but I gently insisted that he give it a try. It became clear after just a couple of days that Phonics Pathways was not the right program. I then tried Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons…the difference in how he responded was very noticeable. He stopped resisting. It was obvious that it was making sense and that it was “clicking” for him.

I gave him the option about halfway through to stop, but he insisted on doing all 100 lessons (many kids don’t). After that, he has never looked back (and we have never had to do any additional “reading lessons”). At 12 he is a very strong and confident reader.

Kyle at 7

Kyle at 7

Kyle’s Journey

Kyle has followed a different path. He is, I believe, more whole brained and, over all, is more sequentially oriented than Jason (although this did not translate into earlier reading for him). I find that traditional teaching does work with him sometimes and he likes doing some workbook-y type of things. When he was 6, he seemed interested in learning to read, so I asked him if he wanted to try some lessons. He said, yes. I started working through 100 Easy Lessons with him but after a little while I realized that nothing was “sticking”. He enjoyed doing them, was not frustrated, but I realized that he was just not ready. So I stopped reminding him and he never asked.

I continued reading to him and focused on helping him create a “relationship with reading” rather than “getting him to read.” Sometime later (maybe when he was around 7?), I thought that a different approach might work with him and since he enjoyed workbooks, I decided to try Explode the Code. We did part of one workbook, but then he started resisting it and saying he did not like it. I also did not feel that he was getting much out of it, so I backed off. When he was 8, I think we tried 100 Easy Lessons again, but then decided to switch over to the Bob Books. These he really liked and we went through to about the 3rd set and then he started resisting and lost interest. Then this past year, I again used 100 Easy Lessons and we have made it through to lesson 60 or so (but with the beginning of summer and everything we have not done much lately).

At this point, he actually can read quite a bit. He does not consider himself a reader though, so one of the things that I have been doing is working on encouraging him to read more on his own (I think that he surprises himself sometimes). We read easy readers together as he enjoys them and it helps with his confidence. He is 9 and I am sure that his confidence will continue to improve and he will consider himself a reader soon.

I have a bit more to say on this subject, but this post is getting long, so I will save that for another post. I hope that by sharing the boys’ individual journeys, it will help illustrate the process we went through. There are no hard and fast rules and I used the boys as my primary guide. We would try something, if it seemed to work great. If not and there was a lot of resistance, I backed off and gave it more time.

Definitely not an exact science. But it works because “learning to read” was not the main focus of our homeschooling. And learning did not depend on being able to read. So we could continue to focus on their strengths and interests while trusting that reading would come when it was ready. It made for a much more natural and easy process