I have a 6-year-old son. He is very much into being “grown,” but is having a horrible time reading. He says he “hates it,” but I see that he likes to read when he knows the words. Any advice on what to do? His handwriting is off also, and his teacher is threatening to keep him back. I have tried to get him into a specialist at CHKD for dyslexia because he is writing his letters and numbers backwards, but that takes months!
Many children have problems similar to those your son is having—reading is a struggle, school isn’t fun, anxiety about failure reigns supreme. With the backward writing of numbers and letters, his problem may truly be dyslexia rather than simply a matter of delayed development. If you can’t get him into a therapy program at CHKD, I would try to have a complete diagnostic work-up done there. And, if his teacher holds him back, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. It isn’t the magic bullet many people think it is, but sometimes it allows the child’s development to fall into line with the academic expectations of the school. In those instances, it can be a big help.
There is much you can do to help, also. Take him to the library once a week, and don’t let a day go by without reading to him. Do this in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed (no TV, arguing brothers and sisters, etc.). And, after you read a story or chapter, ask him to tell it back to you in his own words. Also, from time to time, ask him what a word means. Accept almost anything he says; don’t expect it to sound like a dictionary definition. If he can’t give any sort of definition, ask him to say it in a sentence. If he can’t do that, tell him what the word means and move on. Then, later, ask him again what the word meant. What I am suggesting is that, rather than specifically trying to help him with the mechanics of reading, help him learn more words, feel more at ease in using them, and enjoy language more. Think about this: you can’t really read a word you don’t know. Have you ever noticed how you have to struggle to read the seven-syllable label for a medical prescription? The pharmacist, who not only knows the entire word but also the component parts, has no trouble! So it is with your son and those new words he has to cope with every day.
Finally, enjoy these special sessions. Too soon, all too soon, he won’t want to sit close to you and have you read to him.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.