Helping a Student with Reading Difficulties

We have a seven year-old son who has struggled to learn to read. For some reason the process of putting sounds together and then putting whole words together has been difficult for him.

Boy reading book

From the beginning…

When he was just beginning to talk, and for a long time afterwards, he would run sentences so fast together that most could not understand what he was saying. It was as if his head was working so fast that his mouth couldn’t keep up. Learning to talk was hard. When he was around 3 or 4 we had a speech therapist come to our home to help him.

Chase attended an all day program geared to helping children who needed extra help learning to read better. It took him about half of the year just to learn the sounds of each letter and the next half to learn a very short list of words like “of,” “and,” & “the.” He moved on to first grade in a traditional brick and mortar school and slowly worked to build his reading vocabulary. It was still very slow.

#1 Advantage of Homeschooling

I began homeschooling Chase about six weeks ago. My number one goal with him over the next year is to help him read more fluently. I don’t mean just a little more fluently. I mean a lot more! I also want him to feel confident in his abilities. He hasn’t really enjoyed reading to this point. I think that is due to the fact that it takes so much mental effort. It is very labor intensive for him.

I want him to think reading is fun! I believe that will come when he becomes more competent. I really see this as the #1 Advantage of Homeschool: flexibility to help struggling students or challenge advanced students.


The Plan: Read the Scriptures

I just want to walk you through what our plan to achieve this goal. I will give you some follow up as we go. Remember! We have only been working at this on our own for six weeks.

Chase and I sat down six weeks ago to write out some goals. This is important because it is our goal–NOT MY GOAL! Chase will be turn eight years old next March. Learning from the scriptures is important to our family. Whatever your faith, it is important to center your learning on aspects of that faith. Every faith has a book of scripture whether that is the Bible, the Koran, the Torah, etc. If you do not affiliate with any particular faith, there are other classics in literature that you could choose.

The Nitty Gritty of the Plan: 1 1/2 Pages Per Day

We did the calculations to figure out how many pages he would have to read each day in order to be done in one year. Chase looked up how many pages were in the book and we figured that he would need to read 1½ pages each day. We rounded it up to two pages per day because it will be easier to keep track of where we are if we know we just start at the top of the page each day. I also wanted to give some room for those days when something comes up and we don’t read.

The Daily Routine

Each day during reading time I sit by Chase and we set a timer for fifteen minutes. This is about the max of what he can handle reading on his own before it becomes overwhelming for him. The other children are reading scriptures on their own during this time also. Chase reads as much as he can for the full fifteen minutes. Of course there are words along the way that I help him sound out. When the timer dings I take over and read until we have finished both pages. Chase has to follow along. He points at the end of every verse and that lets me know he is keeping up. I read each word slowly enough that he can follow.

Results So Far

He has progressed quickly. When we first started he could only complete a couple of verses before the timer would ding. He is now reading a half a page! I know that children like to see their progress at this stage and so it might seem daunting because day after day the book keeps on going! But interestingly, that has been part of the beauty and the magic of it! Maybe it’s because the book is so long but he knows he isn’t finishing it any time soon so he just puts his marker in it’s place and we pick up where we left off the next day.

Chase’s reading has improved dramatically over the past few weeks. I believe there is something really profound about immersing my children in scripture. I know it is many levels above his reading level, but, ironically, that may be exactly why he is progressing so quickly. His abilities are growing BECAUSE of reading deeper content.

Other Benefits from Reading Classic Literature (the Scriptures in this case)

It’s also not just reading skills that are being gained. Chase and I are having conversations about men and women in the context of good and evil. His knowledge of right and wrong is developing and his character is growing as well.

Aside from this reading goal Chase has one other goal. He set the goal himself and I thought it was reasonable. He reads at some other point in the day for an additional ten minutes. He can read anything he wants. I make sure he has resources to choose from. I check out lots of books from the library on a first grade level that he can choose from. He enjoys this time even more than he used to when he attended traditional school. I think it is because now these books seem easy since he is being stretched in the scriptures. Both are helping to encourage his ability and his love to read.


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