Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Reader Sanity

I didn't realize until I went back to look for it how long ago it was I wrote my Reader Madness post about my struggling reader, or how many excellent responses on that post that I never acknowledged. Thank you! Thank you! I read every one of them and found much helpful advice.

As a result of a number of suggestions, I went and read up about dyslexia on various sites. The symptoms there were a mixed bag. The reading processing difficulties did seem to line up with my daughter's struggle. But the attendant symptoms, unrelated to reading, didn't match her behavior. Still, I thought, whether or not she has dyslexia proper, since her reading problems match dyslexia symptoms, I'll use dyslexia solutions.

I googled something like "reading program dyslexia" or "learning to read dyslexia" and took tips from blogs. I watched videos of kids following specific routines for learning words. I showed them to my daughter, who thought she would like to try working with words that way. So I found a list of 100 most common starter words, made flashcards for the first twenty, and we began with those.

Perhaps you are wondering why I don't provide links for all these resources. The main reason is that it was a while ago, and I don't remember exactly what sites I used. But also, searching was my friend. No one link I found was worse than the others, and the systems were very similar everywhere. There was no magic bullet site, and so it helped me to read around a bit and see what was out there.

When we did our word work, my daughter would pick a flashcard. She'd read the word if she knew it, or if she didn't I'd sound it out for her and then tell her what it was. She read it. She spelled it as she tapped each letter, and then underlined it as she said the word. She patted down her arm as she spelled the word and said it. She traced the word with the back of a pencil or pen. She wrote the word on a fresh page of her word notebook, and then checked to see if she was correct. Usually, she was.

We were very diligent with this for a time, but it is ever my personality to streamline systems and trim away the busy work. Not all those repetitions seemed to be necessary on every word, and then, and then, I found a way to reinforce words that she absolutely loved.

Dick and Jane.

Yes, citizens of the 21st century, my daughter is learning to read with a whole-word system which has been long abandoned by the greater educational community. Our readers are the reprints of the ca. 1965 series which added African-American children to the mix; the children play so happily and equally that you'd never know that racial tensions were coming to a great historical point in that era. (There's a picture where a white shoe salesman kneels in front of the black mother to help her try on shoes as her twin daughters play in the store.) My daughter knows all the letter sounds, the basic consonant digraphs, silent e, and some of the basic vowel digraphs. She sounds out very slowly, though not as slowly as when we first started. But there is excellent word reinforcement in Dick and Jane. You have a setup like so:

See Dick
See Dick run.

The second line immediately reinforces the first. This pattern is repeated often, for more complex sentences, especially when new words are introduced. My daughter likes it because it's an instant triumph. She learns the words on one line and gets them again right on the very next line. Her sight word knowledge has improved, and she is sounding out more effectively. She is delighted that she can read 50 pages in no time at all.

We also have the David and Ann books, from the Catholic series Faith and Freedom, which she tolerates. But it's Dick and Jane (and Spot and Puff and Sally and Pam and Penny and Tom and Pete and Mike) that she wants to read to me every night in bed

I don't dislike them. The pictures, which take on the narrative burden the simple text can't convey, are charming and have some interesting anthropological costume and setting details. (The David and Ann readers are even better for this, to my mind.) And I don't mind hearing the stories, because I love that my daughter wants to read to me. If I have to spend the next six months listening to Dick and Jane, I don't mind. We have years ahead of us to build up more proficiency. Reading is a skill for a lifetime.


Catholic Bibliophagist said...

I wish there had been an Internet back when I was teaching Child #2 to read!

But this is what I loved about homeschooling: if one thing doesn't work, we are free to switch to something else.

Bob the Ape said...

This post reminded me of (pardon the frivolity) If Edgar Allan Poe Had Written Dick and Jane, and in turn inspired (pardon the more frivolity) The Dick and Jane Version of "The Cask of Amontillado".

mrsdarwin said...

I think that I shall never see
Some poems more clever, nor more twee.

Kate said...

I learned to read with Dick and Jane (and David and Anne). My mother liked to begin teaching us reading before we started kindergarten. I was 4, I think, when she taught me to read, and I remember very clearly sounding out words in those readers and then the feeling of triumph at getting the SAME word on the very next line and the very next page! The ratio of reinforcement to new material was very good that way, and I don't remember being impatient at all with the simplicity of the text because the pictures did such a good job of telling the story. :-)

I have very fond memories of the David and Anne story "Blessed Mother"--partly because the picture of Mary looked like statues and pictures I saw at church and at home as a little girl, but mostly because I was so proud I could read two "long" words like "Blessed Mother" in a row.

mrsdarwin said...

Some more poetry inspired by Bob's inspired Dick and Jane wordplay:

I think that I shall never see
A pair of poems more rife with glee

I think that I shall never see
Poe's Ape gyrate more flexibly

I think that I shall never see
A Bob pastiche of such whoopee

Never was there a tale of such woe,
and told so simply, as Amontillado

The raven croaks his cryptic nevermore,
The narrator gets hot,
But Dick and Jane have no more depth
Than can be found in Spot.

Julia said...

I love this. Everything about it: the searching for what works, the finding what makes her successful, the joy in her success.

Banshee said...


Now, if I could just get Dick and Jane in hiragana, maybe I could become Japanese-literate. (Sigh. I know it shouldn't bother me and I've got enough on my plate, but it does bother me. Someday I'm going to be in the nursing home, grimly making hiragana out of Play-Doh.)