I am in the process of teaching 5 yr old Avila to read. Ronan reads well already and although I will make sure he continues to practice and build his vocabulary the main teaching side of his reading is done. He knows how to read and so can work his way through new words.
Avila had been learning in much the same way as Ronan but I soon noticed that she was doing things rather differently. When working out what a word said she would start with any letter in the word and then make a wild guess at what the word was based on what she thought the other letters looked like. She confuses b and d and p and q and sometimes b and p and in maths I notice she gets 6 and 9 confused.
I have two older children with dyslexia. Now, these days dyslexia has become a contentious issue. There are mixed views on what it is and what causes it. There is a growing view – that apparently dates back to 1929, that dyslexia is a learned disorder; that is children get taught to be dyslexic because of the school’s approach to literacy. Reading some of the research more closely however it would appear that it isn’t quite so simple as all that.
There are children who apparently have a predisposition to dyslexia and therefore the one sized fits all approach to teaching children to read doesn’t fit all and can lead to those with a predisposition to dyslexia finding themselves with serious reading problems later on.
Alex was taught in two primary schools. In the first one (top of the league tables at the time) he was taught using what they called “The Real Book” approach and later with “Thrash” chartes. He became more and more unable to cope with reading. His younger sister was using the same method and his older brother had learned this way too.
Now interestingly Josh had been on a SEN program for reading because he was struggling but he soon came off SEN as he overcame the problem. Alex didn’t.
When they changed to a different primary school (after we moved house) they were in a school much lower down the league tables but the SENCO soon had Alex under her wing and used a strongly phonics based approach with him.
Meanwhile it was noticed that Iona was unable to read and her writing was appalling. Like Alex she reversed letters and letter order, but unlike Alex she was unable to differentiate the beginning and ending of words so her written work was essentially just a string of letters, some of which were reversed.
Iona had many dyspraxic symptoms too. She couldn’t tie shoe laces (still has to use a special method) and couldn’t coordinate a knife and fork. She constantly walked into doors, chairs, tripped over things, dropped things. She was, quite frankly, a bit of a pain to live with at times.
Alex had not had those problems and soon appeared to have overcome a great many of his dyslexic symptoms. He should have done reasonably well at secondary school had his SEN work continued. But it didn’t and the next two and half years were pretty rough to hellish.
By the time I had the guts and gumption to home educate he was functionally illiterate.
Through home ed I thought his dyslexia was fairly mild and put a great deal of his school problems down to the massive bullying problem and to some extent I think that was right. On attending college he received a full assessment and was found to have dyslexia at level 4. The assessment stated that having an IQ of 136 had helped him overcome many of the dyslexic tendencies.
So, the question remains. Do I have two dyslexic children because they were not taught to read properly at school, or is it just one of those things that happens in our family?
Avila is showing signs of struggling to learn to read. I have been using phonics and Oxford Reading Tree books with her-as I did with Ronan. I have noticed that she is far more distracted by the pictures in the ORT books than Ronan was and I have read that colourful picture books are unhelpful for children with a tendency to dyslexia. I have no idea if this is true or not. There is so much argument about what is best for dyslexic children that I wonder how any parent or teacher can decide what is best.
Well I don’t know who is right about dyslexia but I do know I want Avila to be able to read well. So this is what I am doing:
She spends time on Starfall each day reading through the strories and completing the games and videos so she learns all the phonic rules. She has the worksheets from their download site to accompany the reading. This is her primary letter formation work as well. I also use some of the printables from MoreStarfall, especially the ones where she can learn the shape of words.
Alongside this we are working through the McGuffey Primer which she enjoys. It is strongly phonic based and doesn’t have too many distracting pictures. So far this seems to be working.
Finally I have bought the ebook Visual, Perceptual Skills Building Bk 1 from Critical Thinking Co.
I think we probably will go back to the Oxford Reading Tree books at some point. She had reached level 5 and was reading the More Stories set which have more sight words for extended vocab. Two or three people, including a teacher have said this puts her well ahead of her peers in Reception at school; but that doesn’t change the fact that we are seeing difficulties in her approach to reading.