When you have children with learning disabilities, reading can be a big challenge. This is hard to wrap my brain around. I was the 5yo who read cereal boxes and park bench graffiti, for Pete’s sake, so to say I love reading is an understatement. Some people like skiing, some swimming, some tropical vacations – I’d chuck it all for a good book and an hour undisturbed. I can’t figure out how to convince my kids to like it when they struggle with words, sentence structure and the whole enchilada. But it gets worse.
Way, way worse…
Two weeks ago, I went to the girls’ parent teacher meetings. Amelia is way behind grade level, but behaviors are doing very well and she is adjusting to new school, new kids and new changes in her world wonderfully…she’s even happily doing the work she likes (math!). Zoe still has a few hiccups here and there (perhaps due to homeopathy?) but is more or less at grade level, she’s just not testing as well as in the past. (That is, it’s hard to get her to focus on a test. And, clever girl, now she intentionally gives wrong answer to hear the iPad kick out a more fun “Wrong!”)
So that’s the good news but…
I’ve never really been able to get the kids to sit and read. My own attempts at “story times” have been an epic fail or nightly battle. So I had come to believe this is the ways it’s always been, but Amelia’s teacher told me something that shook me a little, and jogged my memory. She used to be her teacher back in grade 3 and this year, the teacher switched grades. She told me, “We can’t get Amelia to read, which she NEVER had a problem with in 3rd grade! She loved it.”
I didn’t think anything of it. Actually, I did…I figured just my sucky not doing it nightly, my failures this summer and my husband. YES, I’m ashamed to say that I went into default crummy wife, “It’s his fault!” mode – I don’t know why. Last night, I was pretty sure that Amelia’s loss of that skill (or liking it) is my fault. I know part of this is I struggle understanding why anyone wouldn’t immediately want to dive into a great and fantastical book, but I think I’ve let that stop me from grasping why can’t they like any of them.
I thought on it last night, after reading, “Parents Who Love Reading, Kids Who Don’t: How it Happens and What You Can Do About It.,” (affiliate link) which I downloaded free for Kindle a few weeks ago. The book gave me hope, but last night, I realized it didn’t have much about how to help kids with special needs. Or, at least, I didn’t really understand how to implement the suggestions for my kids. So, what is a parent to do? I think I’ve been going about it ALL wrong. When I sit back on my heels, what I need to do is brainstorm what’s worked and what hasn’t – and to recognize what success means. Here’s what I’ve seen:
Success in reading means:
- My daughter Zoe often goes to bed surrounded by books or will latch on to one she loves. She’s currently doing a report on beavers with a library book and LOVES it.
- Amelia will take a book – often one above her reading level – and hoard it for a while. She’s a really hard sell on books, so it has to be EXTREMELY engaging.
Our reading successes:
- Zoe got a ton of “Frozen” books for her birthday, these are her favorites.
- She’s moved passed “Peppa Pig” books.
- Amelia actually sat with one of the “Frozen” books – the one that had fancy writing, which is I think the one they have in school.
- She’s picked up the American Girls “You” book and a Tween devotional (without pictures) a few times, I’m not sure if she’s reading them.
Failure essentially means I didn’t do my job, like:
- Forcing them to read. I’m not sure how to get around this for homework and reports. Anyone?
- Not sitting down with them for nightly reading. It’s gotten worse because my thyroid is off and I’m done for the night by about 4pm daily – with still hours of work ahead of me.
- Wasting summer and days off – although, to be fair, they want NOTHING to do with sitting and reading on those days. So HOW do I balance getting them to read on indoor days without “forcing” them?
How I can promote their reading:
- As the book recommended, buy comics and magazines they like and INVESTING more money into reading.
- Bringing home library books. This is an issue because I’m so afraid to lose them so it (painfully) requires a way for me to set up so that they will not lose them.
- Setting up the books so they are everywhere in the house and more accessible. Books laying around the floor is ok.
- Putting away the electronics. I want Wednesday’s – the day they get home at 1:30pm – to be FREE AND CLEAR of electronics, period. That might help. Plus those are my favorite days anyway.
I don’t know about all this. I’m on a serious amount of overwhelm – enjoying every minute of it, yes, but a bit over my eyeballs in things to do. Please share if you have any tips on how you got your kid to enjoy reading, especially if it is something totally out of the box I haven’t yet considered!
Ironically, the day I wrote this post, I got a a new homework sheet for me to track minutes that Zoe and I read together every night. CRAZY! Or the aide is reading my blog…
Found Zoe this morning in the playroom, after getting ready for school, lying on her back reading a Curious George book. Woohoo!! Ok, so still need to work on Amelia.