My son loves to read, and is at the top of his first grade class. I would estimate that he is reading at a 3rd or 4th grade level. He has accomplished this stunning feat this year, thanks to good teachers, and some careful strategies that my husband and I have employed to create a great reader in our son.
Now before you go and dismiss my son as being smart, or precocious, or extra focused you need to know that he has ADHD. He cannot focus, sit still for long, or even tolerate a long book. In addition, his father is dyslexic and Ben showed many signs of dyslexia, which we have now learned were due to the ADHD. We do treat his ADHD with medication and that has helped, but it did not teach him to read.
My primary message to parents is to read to and with your children. I am married to a school teacher, and every year I hear repeated stories of parents who think that it is the teacher’s job to teach their child everything from reading to behavior management to life skills. I agree that teachers are amazing, and have a huge role in our children’s lives, but they cannot do it all, and parental attitudes are essential to creating a child that wants to learn.
Next there are techniques. When Benjamin was a baby I worked for a private school that used a reading and writing method called RIGGS. You can buy the cards online, and other products. I just bought the phenome cards, and taught my son the sounds of all the letters and letter combinations in the English alphabet. The cards also teach spelling rules. My sons school also has a sight words and phrases program that teaches the kids to recognize the most used words.
For dyslexia, we would write the letters with three fingers in big swoops in the air, or have him trace with his fingers letters cut out of different materials. There are many methods for working with dyslexic kids, but I will leave that for my sister to guest blog about, as that is her job.
Most importantly we have read to Benjamin since birth. He loves all kinds of books, but has favorites that we have to repeat a lot. When he got older, we added books on tape or CD to his regime. He has listened to all the Harry Potter Series, all of the Series of Unfortunate Events, all of the Spiderwick books and many others. Now that he can read, he is reading along to the series that we listen to. He loves knowing the books, and his familiarity with the language of books is essential to his ability to decipher textual clues and pick up new words.
Finally the choice of books has been really important. Being married to a teacher gives me an inside track into what books are popular for boys. Here is a short list:
- Magic Tree House
- Artemis Fowl
- Superhero Comic Books – *be careful of content*
- Percy Jackson and the Olympians
- Star Wars
- Series of Unfortunate Events
- Spiderwick Chronicles
- Calving and Hobbes
- How to Help Dyslexia with Visual Learning Strategies (brighthub.com)
- Understanding Dyslexia: LearningRx Dispels Four Common Myths (prweb.com)
- Identifying dyslexia in children and getting help (psychologymum.wordpress.com)