By Terri ~ Guest Author
I've told this story countless times, on UU Homeschoolers and elsewhere, but I'm glad to enter it "officially" into the record to hopefully set at ease the minds of all those overwrought parents whose children aren't reading by the age of 1.
Our now 14 year old son didn't learn to read until he was 10. At the age of 9, he was still having trouble with Go Dog Go. It wasn't for lack of interest or trying. He wanted to read, right along with his older sisters, from the time he was four. But nothing worked for him. Not 101 Easy Lessons, that we sorta used with our girls (and who really learned to read in spite of 101 Easy Lessons, not necessarily as a result of it!); not little basal readers; not whole world programs or 5 in a Row or anything else.
And, so we just kept reading to him, plunking him in the middle of family readings of everything from Little House on the Prairie to Harry Potter, for years. He volunteered with us at nature centers and nursing homes, enjoyed library programs, and 4H and museum outings and play groups and sports programs. And while he didn't seem to be learning to read, he kept learning, steaming ahead in science, especially. When we did our annual evaluations, the evaluator always marveled at how he was a couple of grade levels ahead in general knowledge, and yet still unable to read, although he loved checking books out of the library, especially books about machines, airplanes and vehicles.
Finally, when he was around ten, he became interested in learning Visual Basic, a computer programming language. One of his sister's had been using it and something that employed Visual Basic-like programming to make simple video games. Always fond of books with cross sections and exploded views, we looked for something along those lines about computers, and we found something called Visual Basic for Kids. It featured boxed comments highlighting particular aspects of the programming language -- and gradually, our son started to "get" it.
Within a couple of months of starting his exploration of Visual Basic, he was reading fairly well. After a year, he was at grade level. Today, he's probably somewhat above grade level. Although at first, he wasn't interested in anything beyond informative reading material -- manuals and text book type materials -- about two years, he picked up one of his father's ancient Tom Swift books and a new love was born. Over the last couple of years, he's read every Tom Swift -- both old and new -- that he could get his hands on; some Jules Verne works; all five Harry Potter books; all the Anthony Horowitz Alex Ryder books and other similar adventure novels.
He reads fiction voraciously, and still loves working through manuals and mechanical texts. His handwriting isn't very good, but he's working on it. And he types well and communicates readily via email with friends and relatives. His spelling continues to improve all the time.
So that's our reading story. You can't tell the difference today between our 14 year old late reader, and other 14 year olds who have been reading twice as long or longer. So to parents of "slow" readers, I say, "Don't stress!" It doesn't help if you do. Being a late reader isn't indicative of anything (usually) but of an individual learning style.
Surround your child with lots of great books, keep reading to your child, and find out what he or she is really interested in and support your child in that. Oh -- and check out Frank Smith's Reading without Nonsense "if you need more "professional" reassurance.
The Willinghams have been homeschooling their three, now teenaged, children for the last 12 years. Terri Willingham is president of Learning is for Everyone, Inc., a non-profit education resource organization empowering families through information and networking opportunities. Terri supports the Homeschool Empowerment Webring. Members consist of grassroots homeschool support groups, blogs and websites committed to empowering home educators to make educated decisions in their own lives by sharing information and resources freely and equally. Member groups are outspoken, highly interested in homeschool activism and willing and able to participate in media outreach.