HomeArticlesWhat to do when reading is a chore

What to do when reading is a chore

My 7-year-old son hates to read, but he loves books.

He’ll sit in his room for hours, paging through volumes. Most car rides start with him asking, “Can we listen to the audiobook?” While watching a scene from “Mary Poppins,” he saw Poppins put her charges to bed with just a tuck and a kiss — no story. “Did they not have bedtime stories in the olden days?” he asked.

My son’s public school tests showed he was reading at grade level. But at home, I noticed he had trouble with basic sight words: “was,” “of” and even “a” made him pause. He’d transpose letters and sounds, get lost mid-sentence and have difficulty recovering.

At first I chalked it up to his age and inexperience. It’s easy to forget how tricky the English language is until you start helping a new reader.

But for some kids, it’s a little too tricky. They need more time and practice learning the building blocks. Or — like my son, who was diagnosed at risk for dyslexia — they need to learn in a different way altogether.

All kids develop at different rates. But while one child’s delayed reading might be the result of late blooming, another may be struggling with a learning challenge. Sydney Moses of Arcadia Literacy & Learning says if reading progress is lagging or stops completely, it can be an indicator that intervention is needed.

Guessing at words, skipping lines or using illustrations and context clues instead of reading words on a page are all clues that a child might not be on the right reading track. Learning challenges such as dyslexia don’t always present themselves as jumbled words or backward letters.

Difficulty with handwriting, the ability to recall information (like sight words) or difficulty with rapid retrieval of names can also be a result of dyslexia at work. ADHD, auditory-processing problems and vision issues are just a few other conditions that can affect the way a child approaches reading.

“Children are naturally very flexible, neurologically speaking,” Moses says. “So if they are slow to pick up reading, you should get them evaluated by a specialist who can isolate each skill to determine if there’s a cognitive impediment.”

Having some knowledge about how your child learns makes it easier to advocate for what he or she needs. Start by talking with teachers, who can start the ball rolling toward an evaluation by a school psychologist, which can uncover learning problems and might result in extra in-school help — such as extra reading, speech or even occupational therapy.

Because my child was performing at grade level, getting tested at school was not an option. We chose to go to an independent neuropsychologist to get to the bottom of his learning issues — a process that requires time (days of intensive testing) and money (a complete workup can run in the thousands of dollars).

Some reading centers will perform evaluations that aren’t as thorough as a full psychology exam but can still supply parents with enough information to make an educated decision about seeking the right support.

Reading intervention comes in many shapes, sizes and prices. Some programs meet one hour per week, with prices ranging from $20-$65 per session. Others consist of 20-hour weeks of one-on-one instruction, costing thousands.

Programs also vary in curriculum. Students work to strengthen proficiency in areas of weakness, usually with one or more of the basic reading skills: identifying sounds (phonemic awareness), letter patterns and spelling rules (symbol imagery), comprehension and fluency.

After-school sessions are often approached as learning games, catering to a child’s interests, to break up the intensity of a long school day. Periodic “brain breaks” can keep kids focused and on task.

All of the experts we talked with said the earlier the remediation, the better the outcome. Our hope is that understanding how our son learns and getting him on the right reading path now will save some frustration down the line — for all of us.

Find local reading-support resources at raisingarizonakids.com/learning-differences-attention-challenges

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