Problems learning to read - Mothering Forums
Learning at School > Problems learning to read
MPJJJ's Avatar MPJJJ 11:30 PM 01-01-2005
My son is in kindergarden. He knows all his letters, can write them all, and knows the sounds they make. He has been trying to read for months. He is falling further and further behind. We cannot figure out why.

He is just now learning to read CAT, THE, NO by sight, just by seeing the word over and over again for months now. Ask him to sound dog out... he will say "Ddd....Oooo.....Ggggg..."
Ask him what it says, he will say "I don't know." He will not put the sounds together to make the word. I can say "Dog" over and over, got through the books and point it out on every page, get him to recognize the word, then ask him to read it less then a minute later, and he doesn't recognize it. He is so incredibly far behind... the other kids are saying things like "Park", and "Boat", and he can't even say "Dog".

I just don't get it. He can write his name from memory... but just can't read. We have tried every method there is. Now we are considering the possibility that he may have a learning disability when it comes to reading. Do you have any ideas?

wonderfulmom's Avatar wonderfulmom 11:37 PM 01-01-2005
Many children (especially boys) don't read (or don't read well or comfortably) until they're 7, 8, 9, or even older- and there's nothing "wrong" with them, they're just not ready. Schools have helped a lot of "late" readers learn to HATE reading. I hope the schools go easy on your child.
Keep playing with it- he'll get it eventually.
Hayes's Avatar Hayes 11:41 PM 01-01-2005
My oldest is almost 5.5. She was doing the opposite until just a few days ago. She could sound things out, and do ok with it, but she could NOT pick out sight words she knows. Suddenly, it just clicked. She sees words she knows now, and just says them. If you ask her about it, she says she can't read. She can, she just doesn't know it yet.
stirringleaf's Avatar stirringleaf 11:46 PM 01-01-2005
i was an early reader , and both my younger sister and brother were late readers. i dont think my sister got the hang of it till second grade. i remember helping her. she reads just fine now. she isnt a huge reader but i think thats her personality more than anythiong. she went to school to get her Lpn with 2 little kids and still got As and Bs. and now with an 8 month old ( all 3 kids are under 5 ) she is going back for her RN. neither sis nor bro have troubles reading now. i wouldnt worry for another year, but since thats a long time it woulndt hurt to get him checked out if it will help calm your mind. but i remember noone but me being able to read in my kindergarden class......

i didnt know they were teaching reading at 5 now---thats just another perspective as alot of us from our generation didnt read at 5 anyways. so i bet its one of thise developmental things that happen within an age range, not exactly at a certain year for every single kid.
TiredX2's Avatar TiredX2 12:15 AM 01-02-2005
I'm sorry, but this is a gigantic pet peeve of mine and one reason we have decided to keep our children out of the public school system.

One of DDs dear friends, a darling little girl now in the 2nd grade entered K with high self-esteem and a desire to learn. She just DID NOT get reading. She was read to. She tried hard. She understood the concept, just didn't ever catch up to where she was supposed to "be." Soon the comments, "I'm just not smart" and all started up. Her parents were told she should not pass kinder. They enrolled her in Sylvan. They sent her to summer school. Came to find out EIGHT of the 20 kids in her class were told the same thing. Yes, she is behind (in reading) and continues to lag behind the "average". Her parents are able to take it easier now that she is seven (and reading). She was fully tested, no disabilities. What this has done to her self-esteem though

Many countries are actually pushing reading instruction LATER. Most children who are taught to read around 8 pick it up easily and remain lifelong readers (they always feel they are good at it and it is fun). This early reading instruction that is currently being pushed just really peeves me.
ShannonCC's Avatar ShannonCC 02:55 AM 01-02-2005
Ugh. I think it's sad that Kindergarteners are expected to learn to read. Sure, some can do it, but a lot can't and this is perfectly normal. One day I was telling my dh about what kindergarten has become and he looked at me like I was nuts, saying isn't K supposed to be blocks and finger paints? It was sure different when I was a child. If you didn't eat the paste, you were doing good, :LOL Now these poor children get pushed so fast.

Your son more than likely does not have a learning disability. He just doesn't fit the tiny mold the school is trying to make every child fit.

My dd is 6 and it has finally clicked for her. She asked me to teach her to read when she was 4 and 5 and so I tried and it was FRUSTRATING! She just wasn't ready. Trying to teach someone who isn't ready is just going to backfire. And it was frustrating enough for her when I was only following her lead!

I just read Your Six Year Old and was pleasantly surprised to read that they think formal reading education should not start until at least 7! They stated that many kids at 6 are still reversing letters and numbers (mine is!). They also stated that if you just leave the kid alone (answer her questions when she has them, read to her when she wants you to, etc) *most* kids will naturally learn to read, or start to learn to read by 6. I was blown away by that since here I have a six year old who is suddenly reading quite well. And just a year ago when she asked me to teach her, it wasn't working. Her brain had to click. I have even read that for many children (especially boys) reading can be later. Up to age 12 is considered within the realm of normal! I admit, I would be nervous if my child wasn't reading by 12, but I don't think that's any reason to push it at 5 like so many schools do now. I think they are just creating more and more children who sadly come to think they are "dumb" and grow up to dislike reading

As for what you can do, I don't know what to say. I'm sorry you have been put in this situation (and your poor son too!). Is there any way you can make them back off?

(sorry if this is disjointed - I blame the Nyquil )
MamaAllNatural's Avatar MamaAllNatural 03:41 AM 01-02-2005
Originally Posted by ShannonCC
One day I was telling my dh about what kindergarten has become and he looked at me like I was nuts, saying isn't K supposed to be blocks and finger paints? It was sure different when I was a child. If you didn't eat the paste, you were doing good, :LOL Now these poor children get pushed so fast.
Isn't that the truth.

Children need to be *ready* to really learn and absorb. Forcing it makes the whole thing harder and makes learning a negative thing. I don't know, if you're not willing/able to homeschool could you look into some other schools? Maybe you have some charter schools in your area that are more age appropriate and child friendly - like a Waldorf or a Montessori? Letting reading come on it's own time will make him a *much* better reader than pushing it prematurely. The school is expecting too much from such a young child.

(sorry if this is disjointed - I blame the Nyquil )
Shannon, I never knew. :LOL
Jennifer Z's Avatar Jennifer Z 04:57 AM 01-02-2005
It is possible that phonics just won't work for him. The majority of kids do better with phonetics (sounding words out), but there are some people (me & dh included) that lean strongly towards visual-spatial learning instead. Basically, they learn to read by memorizing words. It just requires a lot of repetition. The old "Dick & Jane" books worked on that principle. The reason they fell out of favor is because it did not accommodate the majority.

For instance, when driving, I can often "read" the signs long before my eyes can read the letters because I tend to recognize the general shape of words long before I see the letters. It is sort of hard to explain. Spelling is the same way. I can tell when a word is spelled wrong, but can't necessarily tell you how to correct it...I just keep rewriting it until it looks right. I was a TERRIBLE speller as a child, but read so much (therefore improving my vocabulary) that I was known as one of the better spellers at workplaces as an adult.

A book that might help explain the learning style is Upside Down Brilliance: The visual spatial learner

With a visual-spatial learning style it often takes longer to grasp concepts, but once it clicks, the understanding is much deeper than what is typical. Visual spatial learners are often able to make connections and leaps in knowledge that others never see. It is just different, not better or worse. We also tend to be "late bloomers", because in the early years we have to figure out how to process information that is presented in a way our brains don't quite get, but once we get that figured out, we catch up very quickly.
Linda KS's Avatar Linda KS 05:05 AM 01-02-2005
I agree with the other posters. A good book you might enjoy is Your Child's Growing Mind by Jane Healy. It is about how kids brains develop and we can best nurture them.

None the less, I used to tutor literacy and if you are looking for options to help him blend, you could play an oral game where you say three sounds and he blends them into a word. ex /p/ /i/ /g/ and he says "pig." Doing this orally without looking at the letters at the same time gives him less to think about and makes it easier. Gradually, he should be able to divide words into their basic sounds too. If you want more ideas like this, let me know.

I don't think there is any reason to push reading on little kids. My older DD couldn't blend simple CVC words until she was 6, and now she is 8 and she can read anything. My DH couldn't read until he was 8 and he was sent to special classes. He is an executive at an international aerospace firm now.
elyice's Avatar elyice 08:05 AM 01-02-2005
He doesn't have a problem, the school has a problem.
I agree with ALL the others.
JoAida's Avatar JoAida 12:12 PM 01-02-2005
I wanted to comment on the visual-spatial learner thing...I am one and so is my 6 1/2 yo DS. I learned to read when I was 3 , but my son is nowhere near ready to read yet. Remember that each child is different, and please be careful not to give your son the idea that something is "wrong" with him. We homeschool for this reason. I know without a doubt (and because I've been told by my teacher SIL) that my son would be labeled as ADD and as a problem reader. He is neither. He's very bright, 2 grades ahead in math than he is in what "they" say reading should be.

I would suggest finding an aspect of reading that he enjoys and doing it as often as possible. My son loves to look at picture-only books and make up stories about the pictures. We also make up stories in the car about things we see. I will also read him a book over and over for a few days and then let him "retell" the story as I turn the pages. He's learning the point of reading...communication...not the mechanics of sounding out words, and I think in the long run he will be a better reader.

I don't know how I would handle this if my DS was in public school, so I cannot be of any help there, sorry.
JoAida's Avatar JoAida 12:18 PM 01-02-2005
I wanted to add that my son sounds a lot like yours. He knows all his letter sounds, consonant blends, and everything that "should" enable him to read phonetically, but he just cannot. He memorizes huge words, but cannot read simple CVC words. It all in the way his brain works.
stafl's Avatar stafl 12:26 PM 01-02-2005
kids learn to read when they are ready. Some aren't ready when schools want them to be. Doesn't mean anything is wrong with him. I'm going to move this to the Learning at School forum, since the school's approach/reaction seems to be the real issue here.
ShannonCC's Avatar ShannonCC 02:54 PM 01-02-2005
Originally Posted by MamaAllNatural
Shannon, I never knew. :LOL
Oh, I outed myself. I'm so not a natural mama :

(where's my NyQuil?????????????????? )
3girlsmommy's Avatar 3girlsmommy 04:55 PM 01-02-2005
I am a reading specialist by trade. Personally I would have to say that your son is doing just what a 5 year old SHOULD be doing. He will pick it up. My advice to you would be to read to him. Pick out books that are interesting. Have him pick out sight words if he is interested. If he shows interest go to a teacher store or a web site that has guided reading or reading recovery leveled books(pm me and I can give you a web site or two) and pick books that are at the bottom 2 or 3 levels. THose books should have a repeated phrase and then a couple of sight words in them. Look throught the book together and point out the sight words and predict what th estory is going to be about. Then read it to him, them together and then id he wants have him read it to you. Let him gain confidence in his abilities. Above all make sure it's pressure free. He needs to LOVE reading and books if that happens 9 times out of 10 the ability to read will follow.

btw I refused to even look at books when I was little. I would throw them across the room. Then in the second half of first grade it just clicked! and by the summer I was reading Tales of the Forth Grade Nothing by myself.

Good Luck and just let him enjoy books for right now.
TiredX2's Avatar TiredX2 06:36 PM 01-02-2005
Then in the second half of first grade it just clicked! and by the summer I was reading Tales of the Forth Grade Nothing by myself.
To me this is a sign that a child has learned to read on their own time line. DD went from very basic books (cat on a mat type stuff) to Poppleton to Magic Tree House to "real" books all within a six month time period. The "click" was there for her. I do really believe most kids will have that "click" but it is rare indeed for it to happen before 5 (meaning most kids start learning to read at 5 but still don't have the "click" for another 1-2 years and they are just dragging along until then. Just look at the proliferation of "early readers"--- kids used to learn to read WELL within months of beginning to read because that "click" was more in line with the instruction, IMO).
FancyPants's Avatar FancyPants 02:30 AM 01-03-2005
Many countries are actually pushing reading instruction LATER. Most children who are taught to read around 8 pick it up easily and remain lifelong readers (they always feel they are good at it and it is fun). This early reading instruction that is currently being pushed just really peeves me.
This is something I don't get either. DH, who is American, read really early (like 4) but I remember learning to read at 7 and it wasn't really pushed until 8 or 9. Considering I was a grade ahead at the time, this early emphasis makes NO sense to me. I remember reading somewhere that you could teach the average 5 year old to tell time after aproximately so many hundred hours of training but you could teach an average 8 year old in half an hour. (this may not be exactly right but you get the gist). So... why waste ALL this time pushing this??? This COMPLETELY confuses me. : Any early educators please explain??
Ponoma's Avatar Ponoma 02:21 AM 01-07-2005
Would consulting a speech therapist or hearing specialist be of any use
in this case?
LunaMom's Avatar LunaMom 11:38 PM 01-11-2005
I agree with many of the others - your son doesn't sound as though he is behind, it just sounds as though the school has unreasonable expectations.

However, if you want to help him learn to sound out words, I'd suggest giving Phonics Pathways a try. I've found that their system works very well as far as teaching kids to blend sounds left to right as they read, rather than to sound each individual letter and then try to figure out what word it is. That might work for C-A-T but it will never work for longer words. Hard to explain if you've never seen it, but it works well.

Again, though, he's five. Knowing all the letter sounds is just where he should be, and my guess is that he'll figure it out when he's ready.
Nanner's Avatar Nanner 02:23 AM 01-16-2005
I am mostly echoing others, but I wanted to throw my teeny bit of personal experience into the ring. My dd is 4 and a September baby, so I have a little time yet to decide the best school for her and for that I am thankful! I am currently learning to be a teacher and I will do my internship this fall. I am in a Kindergarten class this semester and I was in one at a different school last semester (last semester I was doing reading lessons in the class for a "Creating Literacy" class I was taking).
When I got into the teacher classes at my little college down here in SC, I was amazed at what they told me- they teach us things like... read quality literature to kids, don't focus on phonics... get the kids involved in hands-on activities... don't give worksheets, etc. etc. I was SO relieved and excited to hear these things! I just read 2 chapters of one of my textbooks that talked all about Writing Workshop, where they encourage kids to make books right from the beginning of Kindergarten, rather than handing them a piece of lined paper or a worksheet. And they expect lots of pictures and scribbles in the beginning and then the kids start adding letters and then words. Also, we are told to encourage children to "write" using pictures or random letters, and to encourage them to use invented spelling when they are learning in the early grades. Suffice it to say that almost all of what we are taught fits well with an AP philosophy.
HOWEVER, I have not seen this in the schools. I go there energized, and feel deflated by the way the kids are hurried around and constantly nagged to sit still and quiet and then go to their desks to stop talking and do their (boring) work.
I want to jump up and say "No! There has got to be a better way for them to learn!!!" And there is, and I hope as a teacher I can bring much more energy and enthusiasm for learning to the classroom. But, with the various dynamics, such as administrator policies and expectations and standardized testing (including No Child Left Behind, which I hate), overcrowded classrooms, and children who come to school just not ready to learn (no reading at home or parental involvement in education) I do not know how much I will be able to do in the school system to help my students reach their full potential!
But, I will do all I can and I wanted all of you guys to know that at least some, and I think many, education programs are teaching an updated version of child development and the way students should be taught.
Good luck to all looking for an excellent education for their child!
2tadpoles's Avatar 2tadpoles 02:33 AM 01-16-2005
I agree that it's the one-size-fits-all schooling that is the problem, and not the five-year-old child.

But if it makes you feel any better, I recently met an unschooling family with six children. None of them were early readers... one even didn't read until he was 12. The one who learned to read at age 10 is currently graduating Magna Cum Laude from a university.... with a double-major. The one who learned to read at 12 is also currently at university.

So, reading at 5 is not really that important for child development. All it's important for is keeping the school on schedule.
sweet tea's Avatar sweet tea 05:21 PM 01-28-2005
if it were my child, I wouldn't push. Just be sure I read one or two books with him every night before bed. And let him catch me reading for pleasure. Make plenty on books available to him, with no expectations. just so he could sit and just look at pictures, maybe of a book we read the night before.

a lotta boys are just much more concerned with balls and bats than books and pencils..
bug138's Avatar bug138 12:17 AM 02-01-2005
[ So... why waste ALL this time pushing this??? This COMPLETELY confuses me. : Any early educators please explain??[/QUOTE]

Hi! I as well, am an early childhood reading specialist in NYC. I'd say one big reason for the push is due to the current political trend towards testing in every grade from the Bush administration. When you make policies out of fear- in this case, we are all failing and our schools are the problem- the fear causes us to make poor developmental and educational choices for our children. It is sad to see so much pressure for a tiny guy to get something that he will probably be able to get soon enough.
I'm sad to read your post and feel so much stress for something that should be exciting and fun.
Please, do your son a favor and have fun with him and enjoys stories and books and play with sounds. But no pressure. They know when you are worried and it makes it more stressful for them. Think about the last time you tried to do something when someone was standing over you and correcting and getting frustrated.
You have received lots of good advice from the others. Play and have fun and tell the school to chill out.

Mohawk Mama's Avatar Mohawk Mama 01:22 AM 02-01-2005
I have worked as a reading specialist for several years -- helping struggling students learn how to become motivated and strategic readers. The good news is: your child is doing exactly what he should be doing at this stage in the game.

Don't fall into the trap of comparing your child to others. We ALL learn at different rates and in different ways and that is what makes each of us wonderfully unique and special. Your child may also just happen to be in a class where students are "getting it" very quickly. Even though he is right on target, being in this classroom might give others the false impression that he is falling behind.

In my experience, MOST kindergartners start reading very simple pattern books (I see a red balloon. I see a yellow balloon. Etc.) by the END of the school year. The fact that he is already picking up a few sight words in January is GREAT!

Don't get too hung up on phonics and sounding it out, though. Good readers use way more than just letters and sounds to help them figure out unknown words. Good readers read for MEANING, or to understand the author's message.

I concur with previous posters who recommend reading to and with your child. I would also add that this shared reading is the perfect opportunity to help your child start thinking strategically.

When a good reader picks up a book about the zoo, for instance, he is already getting his brain thinking about zoo animals. When he sees a monkey in the book with a lady's hat, he is wondering where the monkey might have gotten it from. Perhaps the monkey stole it from someone? Or maybe it was a gift from the kindly zookeeper.... This is strategic thinking and the "magic" that many children are discovering about reading at this age. We read to understand the author's point of view and then we have a dialogue (by ourself or with others, if we're lucky) about what WE think about the author's ideas and the new questions and ideas that arise out of THAT discussion or remind us of another book or our own trip to the zoo and so on.

To reduce this type of thinking down to ddd -- ooo -- ggg not only takes away the magic, but it gives children a false sense of what reading is all about. It also makes reading even more difficult because you are taking away the meaningful context that strategic readers require. It is like asking someone to sit on a chair where you have taken away all but one of the chair legs!

Of course, we look at the letters for clues but these need to be matched up with many other clues to read efficiently and accurately, such as:
  • what do the pictures tell us,
    what do we already know about the zoo through our own experience,
    what do we know about how fiction stories are organized, and,
    how might we say this using proper English syntax?

To recap:

1. Don't worry. I see no indications of LD in your child (it is very difficult to accurately test for LD at this age because he is so young)
2. Your child is doing a GREAT job! He has learned his name, letters, sounds and even a few sight words -- BRAVO!
3. Don't overemphasize "sounding it out;" it's not helpful.
4. Make reading with your child as fun, engaging, and thought-provoking as you can.

He will discover the magic of reading soon enough!

Best wishes,
Rebecca Wolf