Readers Are Boring

A stressed out homeschooling mom asks: “My son just turned 8 and I am so frustrated with his reading ability. He knows his consonants and vowels well but the rules stump him even though we have gone over them…obviously I have done something wrong. What is the best way to teach the rules? I figured reinforcing/teaching them through reading is the best way, but now I wonder. The only “curriculum” I have used is Explode the Code and Studydog. He does very well on both but when it comes to reading a book it’s a big struggle…and I am talking the reader type books…Level 1.”

There is no “best” way to learn to read. Every kid is different, and for every kid, he is going to learn to read in his own way.

Reader books, for the most part, are bo-r-i-ng….. Blah.

Here are some ideas on how to help him understand the code of reading in a way that might match with his learning style.

Get an ACTION book, or another book that he loves. And read it over and over and over and over. Until he’s got it memorized. Of course, only read books that he enjoys hearing over and over – don’t force him. But, I’m sure you’ve got books that he’s already memorized.

Then, the next time you read the story, don’t say the last word of each sentence.

Mom: And off they went to…..

Son: Mom!

Mom: What?

Son: went to Mars! It’s Mars!

Mom: Oh? Huh? Where? Where does it say that? (maybe a little tickle in son’s ribs)

Or try this:

Mom: And off they went to Alabama.

Son: It’s Mars mom! Silly!

Mom: Ooooh, you’re right, I totally misread that.

Or try this.

Mom: And on they came to Mars.

Son: And OFF they WENT to Mars.

Mom: No way, it doesn’t say that. Where does it say that? (evil grin)

Another fun game to play with words is the next time you read a book that he likes that repeats a word, such as “the” or “blue”, play games like, “how many ‘the’s are on this page? I see one here! Can you find another one?” or “Does this page have the word ‘blue’? Don’t push it though if he doesn’t find that game fun.

The key is to make it *FUN*. And I don’t mean to take a boring task and try to sneak it into a game – actually express your own personal enjoyment of how much YOU love words, and how much you love the game, because the game itself brings you both joy.

Words games are an awesome tool as well. My 8 and 5 year olds love word games. All kinds.

Here are some games that play with language and can help and 8 year old learn to read:
Mad libs
Scrabble junior
kids x-word puzzles (do them together, or have him watch you do them)
Loud Mouth (start with 3 letter words)
Comic books
I spy books
drawing words/letters in the sand/dirt
making words from sticky bath letters
Games for Reading

There are infinite possibilities. But no matter which program or process or method you choose, the most important factors are to keep the activities 1) fun and 2) meaningful to your child. So pick books and methods that he can get excited about. As Dr. Phil says, “I want you to get excited about your life!” I say, “I want you to get excited about reading!”

If you keep reading fun, non-judgemental and drop your expectations, your child will learn to read at the pace he is ready for. If your child is the one who is frustrated that he’s not learning faster, then it’s time to mix it up a bit. He might even like a structured program, so it’s worth a shot. But don’t expect any one reading “program” to work. Try things out and learn about your child. Then whem something works, rejoice, and then use it as a tool to give you ideas on other ways to use the same style to teach from other books and other methods.

My son is 8 and we’ve used the “give him books he loves, read out loud books that WE love and allow him to read in a way that he enjoys” method (which means he doesn’t read aloud unless he’s sharing something interesting with us, only talking about book content in casual conversation and no reading lists or requirements). We use the same approach with our two younger ones, and they have taken different paths in how they’ve picked up words and understanding of the written language.

How “well” they read is not important to me. Their enthusiasm for reading (in their own way) and their comfort level around books (even if they don’t use them much sometimes) is what’s important to me. In the end, if they grow up to be adults who can read well, but are burnt out on books, what’s the point? If they grow up to be adults who can read functionally and that’s it – but they love books or at least see books as one of their many useful tools to gain knowledge and entertainment – then they always have time to learn to read better. As an adult, it’s next to impossible to learn to love to read if that passion has been squelched.

So, in answer to the question above – let him do his computer games, where he obviously enjoys reading. And let him read things that he loves – in his own way, even if he makes up stories. Read to him – a lot. Listen to books on tape. Point out interesting signs, quotes, and language related things in life (for fun, not to prove a point that he needs to learn to read). Play lots and lots of games that he loves. Do word puzzles that he loves. Provide workbooks that are at a level he is comfortable with (even if they seem too easy or too hard for him) and allow him access to those workbooks whever he likes (but is not required to do them every day, unless he thrives from that). And go to the library, bookstore, used book sales letting him roam the aisles.

You are at home. You are not at school. You are not teaching 30 kids. You are not trying to keep to standards. You do not have to try to keep your kids up to “par” in order to keep the federal money rolling in. You are free. Use that freedom to take a step back and do what makes sense for your child. Do what makes sense to you. And when things you try don’t work – just stop. Don’t second guess yourself. Just stop, and try something else. Keep trying until something does work. Something will eventually work.

3 Responses to “Readers Are Boring”

  1. Mom of All Seasons Says:

    Calvin & Hobbes and The Far Side. The Boy learned to read (by desperately wanting to read) the first and refined his vocabulary, history, science and just about every other knowledge base with the second.

    I don’t think he would be reading at neither the level he is nor with the enjoyment that he does if we’d ever used “graded readers”.

  2. Sharon Thomas Says:

    Children do not need to know the RULES to learn to read. The only thing you are doing “wrong” is teaching him rules rather than just reading to him. Forget the rules. Those are for linguists who want to study how language works. They are not for kids learning how to read. Kids learn to read because they’ve been read to and they liked it and they want to do it themselves. As others have said, find books on topics he’s interested in. Invite him to “read” with you. Have him tell you a story that you write down and he illustrates. Then read “his” book to him and practice reading it together. Ask him to help you make grocery lists. Help him write letters to friends and relatives. Kids only like REAL language that has REAL uses. They don’t like and don’t need those rules. Forget the rules.

  3. Cheryl Says:

    Some kids do need to learn the rules, they are the dyslexics. Other children can learn to read by learning the sounds, the word families and by being read to. Eventually, these children read well on their own. If a child is dyslexic, then this probably won’t happen.

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