Help! My Child’s Not Reading at Grade Level! Part 2

Part 1 of this article ended with the question: What’s the matter with basing a curriculum
on reading level?


What is the matter is that many, many 9 and 10-year olds (as
many as 4
0% of them) are not “developmentally” ready to read  “4th
grade” material.

Their senses (vision and hearing) memory, and organizing
functions of the brain

WASHINGTON - AUGUST 10:  White House Chief of ...

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need more time to integrate with one another. So, if 40%
of your students aren’t yet developmentally ready for your curriculum, what
would be the logical thing to do?


The current answer to that question in most school districts
is to sound an alarm, label the kids, generate fear in parents and ship the kids
out to reading specialists.


This solution is troublesome in three ways:


Trouble #1

No matter how much money we spend, no matter how much extra
instruction we provide, no matter how much we bribe, threaten, reward or punish
students, young people cannot integrate their brains faster than their inner,
developmental clock allows. The saying, You
can’t push the river
, comes to mind. As teachers and parents we often spend
valuable time, energy and money pushing rivers and then feeling bad, sad and
mad when we don’t get the results we want, when we could be working WITH the
developmental clocks of 40% of our students who aren’t reading at “4th
grade level” when they enter the 4th grade.


What we can do about

We can give this 40% of our students more time to practice
their reading skills in their 3rd and 4th grade
classrooms. Classroom reading instruction can be individualized and
decentralized to allow students to learn at their own pace.


Trouble #2

We grade and rank young people on their reading ability.
History and science are subjects and we study them for the information they
give us about our world. However, reading (writing, listening and math, too)
are skills that cannot be taught. To be a successful reader means that a child
has matured into many skills that can be nurtured but not taught. There is a
reason parents don’t grade their kids on their walking skills, bicycle riding
skills, or skateboarding skills. We would have many fewer kids mobile in these
ways. We know fully well that walking, bicycle riding, and skateboarding depend
on the coordination of a lot of separate abilities, including: depth
perception, balance, coordination and muscle strength, as well as practice.


Reading is the integration of vision, hearing, and brain organization.
Students have their own internal clock for when this integration takes place. It
takes time and kids can’t be threatened or bribed, rewarded or punished into
doing what they aren’t yet able to do!


What we can do about

Start celebrating
all the tiny steps along the way that are leading to becoming a

fluent reader. As we say
at LearningSuccess™ Institute: Success leads to more

success! Give students
lots of time without pressure to develop to their fullest and

celebrate their accomplishments
with them!


Trouble #3

Kids learn best in small doses (10-15 minute sessions), in familiar
places, with people they trust in a spirit of play and discovery. To feel
emotionally safe and comfortable they need consistent systems, methods and
expectations. When they are taken to unfamiliar places to learn from unknown
people using unknown methods for long, focused reading skill development
sessions (40-60 minutes) the young people are being asked to learn a “new
structure” for learning to read, in addition to the reading basics.


In addition, going to tutors almost always occurs after a
full day of school when students’ energy is low, and they need a snack and some
free time, not more lessons.


What we can do about

The elementary school classroom can be the place where all
students are able to get their reading needs met with the help of teacher-coaches
who are well trained in best reading practices and are well versed in students’
developmental stages of readiness.


We can replace reading worksheets and teacher-driven lessons
with a systematic prepared environment with hands-on activities that students
work through at their own pace.


Library of illustrated children's books

Image via Wikipedia

Let our students move, investigate, self-correct, and take
breaks when they need to.


It’s all possible! LearningSuccess
Institute has been helping families and schools set up nurturing reading
programs for more than a decade. And Montessori schools have been doing
something similar for many decades.

If your child is struggling with reading and you have questions, give us a call – 805-648-1739.

by Victoria Kindle Hodson, copyright 2011 by Willis & Hodson, Reflective Educational Perspectives LLC – we customize
learning programs to meet individual student needs

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