The Foundational Skill for Success
With September comes the start of the school year. Even though it means the end to free time, the feel of the warm sun on the face, and fun times at the beach, there are many kids who look forward to returning to school and the challenges of learning. There are also those who don’t necessarily look forward to the rigors of the educational experience.
I was one such “student”. Why? Because in the third grade I was labeled a “slow reader” and no matter what I did, it seemed like I was always just a step behind. Thus, my enthusiasm for reading wasn’t all that great because I felt I wasn’t any good at it. Reading was a labor for me, and not one of love. Even today it haunts me. My wife, Kathleen, will say, “Honey, I have something I’d like you to read.” My programmed response, “How long is it?”
On some level I still drag that anchor of “slow reader” around a bit. I eventually made a decision to focus on improving my reading ability, and read 100 books in one year. It helped a bit being stationed on an island that experienced frequent foul weather. I haven’t stopped reading since. I went on to get my degree in engineering (talk about boring, dry material . . . it doesn’t get much worse than that), plus I explored additional fields of study, as well as teaching.
My point is this – reading is the foundational skill for all learning, for all success. If your child is having difficulty with reading, they need help and understanding. It’s essential that you, their parent, be a calm and supportive advocate for them. Learning to read is not like learning to speak. Reading must be taught. For an excellent resource on teaching the skill of reading, for both parents and teachers, go to Reading Matters to Maine.
My two daughters started in the public school system, were homeschooled during their junior high years, and then attended an independent high school in Vermont. The one thing their mother and I encouraged continuously was reading. Reading solo, out loud and, as a family. I also attempted to get them excited about math but didn’t get very far. I finally realized that very few of us develop a love for math. Differential calculus will not balance your checkbook, but addition, subtraction, and the use of a calculator will!
We were very fortunate that both girls learned to read relatively easily. But what about the kid, like “moi”, who doesn’t? What do you do then?
When we were just starting to think about homeschooling the girls, I found a jewel at the library, Homeschooling for Excellence by David and Micki Colfax. The authors explained how they arrived at their decision to home school, while I gained a better understanding of education in general. Impactful for me was Micki’s questioning the system of “age appropriate curriculum” and how it may create a disastrous learning experience.
Their youngest child had reached the age of ten and had not yet learned to read. (note: both David and Micki are educators and know the value of reading) But there was something in Micki that kept telling her to be patient . . . no matter how much outside pressure she felt. Well, one day, the non-reader child, with excitement and curiosity, brought home an Indian arrowhead he found on their property. Perfect opportunity! She whisked him off to the library to find a book on arrowheads. Within a year he was reading at better than eighth grade level.
I’m a champion for reading. It’s the key for all doors.
If your child is struggling with reading, ask him how he feels about it. Then ask how he’d like it to be different. And finally ask how he’d like you to help.
And make sure you take time to read together.
With patience, education, and practice, you will become a more confident and effective parent.
And remember . . . It’s ALL about the relationship.